Pulmonary Toxicity of Lunar Highland Dust 2009-01-2379
Lunar dust exposures occurred during the Apollo missions while the crew was in the lunar module on the moon's surface and especially when micro-gravity conditions were attained during rendezvous in lunar orbit. Crews reported that the dust was irritating to the eyes, and in some cases, respiratory symptoms were elicited. NASA's current vision for lunar exploration includes stays of 6 months on the lunar surface hence the health effects of periodic exposure to lunar dust in the habitat need to be assessed. NASA is performing this assessment with a series of in vitro and in vivo tests with authentic lunar dust. Our approach is to “calibrate” the intrinsic toxicity of lunar dust by comparison to a relatively low toxicity dust (TiO2) and a highly toxic dust (quartz) using intrapharyngeal instillation of the dusts to mice. A battery of indices of toxicity is assessed at various time points after the instillations. Finally, chemical systems are used to assess the nature of the reactivity of various dusts and to determine the persistence of reactivity under various environmental conditions that are relevant to a space habitat. From these studies we will be able to set an evidence-based inhalation-exposure standard for aged dust and predict whether we need a separate standard for reactive dust. Presently-available data suggest that aged lunar highland dust is potentially toxic and that the surface reactivity induced by grinding the dust persists for a few hours after activation.