Lunar dust damages the human body, study reports

A new study finds that moon dust is harmful to the body, a discovery that could alter plans for a future lunar colony.
By Joseph Scalise | May 11, 2018
Lunar dust may be extremely harmful to the human body, a new study published in the journal GeoHealthreports.

Colonizing space has been a hot topic over the past few years. Though there are several possible destinations out in the cosmos, astronomers believe the moon has the most potential.

However, the recent research -- which comes from astronomers at the Stony Brook University School of Medicine -- shows the satellite may be much harder to colonize than previously thought. The reason? Moon dust.

In the study, researchers cultivated human lung and mouse brain cells in Petri dishes and exposed them to simulated lunar dust. That not only caused 90 percent of the cells to die, it also greatly compromised their genetic integrity.The dust then became even more deadly when smashed down into small bits.

"Very small particles in the breathable range or smaller can interact directly with cells," said study co-author Bruce Demple, a professor at the Stony Brook University School of Medicine, according to ZME Science.

This is not the first time scientists have analyzed the dangers of lunar dust, but it is the most thorough study of the substance ever done.

Currently, researchers are not sure why the powder damages cells, but it is important to note that it does. That is because the dust's deadly properties could throw a wrench into future plans to colonize the moon.

Long exposure to the material leads to complicated health problems like bronchitis and, based on how Apollo astronauts responded to the dust, it likely harms and reduces lung function as well.

"If there are trips back to the Moon that involve stays of weeks, months or even longer, it probably won't be possible to eliminate that risk completely," added Demple, in a statement.

Currently, the results of the study are not conclusive. Not only did researchers use a moon dust substitute, but they also used cultured cells instead of a live organisms. More research needs to be conducted in the future to fully see how problematic the powder could be.


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