Life in Moon: Lunar dust damages DNA, astronauts may suffer from cancer

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New Delhi : While scientists are trying best to discover living habitats on the heavenly Moon, a study reveals that living on the moon may kill you. Astronauts who spend maximum time on the astronomical body are likely to suffer DNA damage from breathing lunar dust, experts have warned.

A research conducted by the American Geophysical Union found that lunar soil is toxic to human lung and mouse brain cells. It has been observed that up to 90 percent of human lung cells and mouse neurons died when exposed to dust particles that mimic soils found on the Moon's surface. 

Lunar dust caused hay fever to astronauts who visited the Moon during the Apollo missions.

'Lunar dust adhering to their suits caused mild respiratory issues for Apollo astronauts returning from the Moon,' wrote the team, led by Rachel Caston, a geneticist at Stony Brook University School of Medicine in Stony Brook, New York and lead author of the new study published in GeoHealth, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.  

'Chronic or longā€term effects of such dust exposure could be a problem for future missions,' the team mentioned.

Experts say prolonged exposure to lunar dust could damage airway and lung function.

Bruce Demple, a biochemist at Stony Brook University School of Medicine and senior author of the new study, told the AGU's blog if the dust brings inflammation in the lungs, it could increase the risk of more serious diseases like cancer.

'Over a long period of time, the continuing damage, irritation and inflammation would increase the risk of more serious disease, including cancer,' Demple said. 

'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.'

'We found significant cell toxicity in neuronal and lung cell lines in culture, as well as DNA damage associated with the exposure,' the team wrote.     

There is no atmosphere in the Moon and its soil is continually bombarded by charged particles from the upper layers of the Sun that stream through space, causing lunar soil to become electrostatically charged, like static stick on clothing.

When astronauts visited the Moon during the Apollo missions, the electro statically charged lunar soil adhered to their spacesuits, such that lunar dust was carried into the living environment by astronauts who had been exploring the lunar surface, the team say. 

Geologist and astronaut Harrison Schmitt, Apollo 17 lunar module pilot described his reaction to lunar dust as 'lunar hay fever,' including sneezing, watering eyes, and sore throat.

'There are risks to extraterrestrial exploration, both lunar and beyond, more than just the immediate risks of space itself,' said Rachel Caston.

Earlier a research has found breathing dust from volcanic eruptions, dust storms and coal mines can cause bronchitis, wheezing, eye irritation and scarring of lung tissue.

Experts say that the dust particles accumulate in a person's airways and the smallest can penetrate to alveoli, the tiny sacs where carbon dioxide is exchanged for oxygen in the lungs.

Dust can also damage cells' DNA, which can cause mutations and lead to cancer, according to previous studies.