Long-term moon dust exposure may have severe impact on human health

Researchers with Stony Brook University have published a study with concerning implications for future manned lunar missions. Using simulated lunar soil, the team found that moon dust may be toxic to humans, particularly to lungs. As well, the research shows a toxic effect on mouse neurons, indicating other possible health ramifications that await humans traveling to the lunar surface.

According to the study, astronauts who spend a long period of time on the moon, where they're likely to breathe in fine particles from the surface soil, could face various health issues including bronchitis. As much as 90-percent of human lung cells and mouse neurons died after exposure to simulated lunar dust particles.

The University points out that astronauts who visited the moon during NASA's lunar missions experienced reactions akin to hay fever. Prolonged time spent on the moon could have a larger impact on astronaut health, at least based on the study's findings, and it could include severe issues like cancer.

The study indicates that inhaling lunar dust could have "minor" health effects in the short term, such as cell death and inflammation. Over time, though, exposure could cause damage to DNA, resulting in neuron loss and uncontrolled cell growth. The University notes, "The simulants killed the human lung cells so effectively the researchers couldn't measure the DNA damage."

Unfortunately, there doesn't appear to be any solid way to completely eliminate exposure to these tiny dust particles. The study comes at a time when the US government has expressed a design to return humans to the moon. As well, many private space companies have introduced manned mission concepts, including ones that involve space tourism and long-term deployments to the lunar surface.

SOURCE: Stony Brook