Space Research

Longtime exposure to lunar dust might be harmful to astronauts

It has been long known that living in space affects astronomers’ health conditions. Now, a new study has found that Moondust can be quite harmful to astronauts’ health and can even result in cancer if inhaled.

According to the research conducted by scientists at Stony Brook University, prolonged exposure to lunar dust can result in serious health disorders in astronauts.

Rachel Caston, the lead researcher, claims that the effect of lunar dust is quite similar to silicosis, a condition found in those who breathe in toxic dust from dust storms or volcanic eruptions. The tiny silica particles from the toxic dust settle in the lungs causing gross damage or even affecting the DNA of cells, resulting in cancer.

For the purpose of the study, the research team grew both human cells and mouse cells in the lab and exposed them to a simulated lunar dust. On examining the cells, it was found that the moon dust decimated the cells up to 90 percent. The dust killed the cells and even damaged the cells’ DNA. The human cells were damaged so effectively that it wasn’t possible for the researchers to measure the extent of DNA changes.

“Very small particles in the breathable range or smaller can interact directly with cells,” study author Bruce Demple, a professor at the Stony Brook University School of Medicine, told Gizmodo.

It is believed that the lunar soil is completely dry and potentially electrostatically charged. The lunar soil may have pulverized into very small toxic particles resulting from billions of years of bombardment from meteorites and micrometeorites.

The researchers, unfortunately, have no idea why the massive damage was caused. The team is hopeful that their research study will make enough of a case for NASA to provide some of the real samples obtained during the Apollo missions.

The research study, entitled “Assessing Toxicity and Nuclear and Mitochondrial DNA Damage Caused by Exposure of Mammalian Cells to Lunar Regolith Simulants,” was published in GeoHealth.

About the author

Megha Kedia

Megha Kedia

Megha is a seasoned reporter with over six years of experience covering news in technology, science and related fields. At The Space News, Megha covers space research & technology news.

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