Transversal processes: From the end of the Permian to the lungs of Yunan

The following is an example of processes that span scales. Unlike the cases of “intersecting processes” that I have discussed, in which I point to linking multiple points of engagement across the scales, there is no point of engagement that alters the end-of-Permian extinction!

From New Scientist, 14 December 2013

In the early 1980s, health authorities in China became aware that cases of lung cancer not associated with smoking were 20 times higher in parts of Yunnan province, in the south of the country, than elsewhere. A likely source of the problem was quickly identified, says David Large, a geologist at the University of Nottingham, UK: the combustion of coal in cast-iron stoves kept inside without adequate ventilation… His team has found tiny, sharp grains of silica, recently identified as a possible carcinogen, in the fuel… The coal dates to the very latest stages of the Permian, and would still have been peat during the end-Permian mass extinction. During the formation of the vast Siberian volcanic region around this time, gases released into the atmosphere made rainwater more acidic, dissolving surface rocks and leaving the groundwater unusually rich in silica – silica that eventually made its way into the coal (Environmental Science and Technology, vol 43, p 9016).


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