Physics, Chemistry and Pulmonary Sequelae of Thermodegradation Events in Long-Mission Space Flight 932144

An event in which electronic insulation consisting of polytetrafluoroethylene undergoes thermodegradation on the Space Station Freedom is considered experimentally and theoretically from the initial chemistry and convective transport through pulmonary deposition in humans. The low-gravity environment impacts various stages of event simulation. Vapor-phase and particulate thermodegradation products were considered as potential spacecraft contaminants. A potential pathway for the production of ultrafine particles was identified. Different approaches to the simulation and prediction of contaminant transport were studied and used to predict the distribution of generic vapor-phase products in a Space Station model. A lung transport model was used to assess the pulmonary distribution of inhaled particles, and, finally, the impact of adaptation to low gravity on the human response to this inhalation risk was explored on the basis of known physiological modifications of the immune, endocrine, musculoskeletal and pulmonary systems that accompany space flight. Critical unknowns were identified, and these include the extent of production of ultrafine particles and polymeric products at the source in low gravity, the transport of ultrafine particles in the spacecraft air quality control system, and the biological response of the lung, including alveolar macrophages, to this inhalation risk in low gravity. This research was supported by the NASA Specialized Center of Research and Training in Space Environmental Health.


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