By Barbara Freese
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Additional info for Coal: A Human History
Fire damp is mostly methane, also formed by decaying vegetable matter. The main component of natural gas, methane is commonly known as marsh gas, and is itself a potent greenhouse gas. Fire damp would seep from the coal seams, or sometimes come hissing out 50 COAL quickly from a ﬁssure in the seam. Lighter than air, ﬁre damp would build up along the mine ceiling. * If there was only a small accumulation of ﬁre damp, the bearer of the ﬂame might merely be knocked ﬂat and singed. If the build-up was large, the results were catastrophic for everyone in the mine.
At the beginning of the Carboniferous, tiny newt-sized creatures not far evolved from ﬁsh slithered through the wet undergrowth; by the end of it, massive, ﬁfteen-foot-long monsters were dragging their bellies through the primeval mud. We know this because they left both footprints and belly-prints. It was also during this lush time among the Carboniferous trees that some amphibians took the 20 COAL momentous step of forming hard-shelled eggs, thereby evolving into reptiles, from which would later evolve dinosaurs, birds, and mammals.
Clothing, too, suffered from coal smoke and soot, requiring frequent cleaning. This not only compounded the already considerable hygiene problems of the city but further increased the distinction between the rich and the not-so-rich. Nourse was particularly concerned over the plight of people of rank but not of fortune because they were going broke trying to wash away the smells and stains of the polluted city air. ” It was particularly a problem to be caught in the rain, which washed the soot out of the air and left black spots on whatever it THE BEST STONE IN BRITAIN 37 touched.