NASA plans to build a permanent space station on the moon to explore its surface. The surface of the moon is covered in lunar dust, which consists of fine particles that contain silicon, aluminum and titanium, among others. Because this will be a manned base, the potential toxicity of this dust has to be studied. Also, toxicity standards for potential exposure have to be set. To properly address the potential toxicity of lunar dust we need to understand the toxicity of its individual components, as well as their combined effects. In order to study this we compared NASA simulant JSC-1AVF (volcanic ash particles), that simulates the dust found on the moon, to aluminum, the 3rd most abundant component in lunar dust. We tested the cytotoxicity of both compounds on human lung and skin fibroblasts (WTHBF-6 and BJhTERT cell lines, respectively). Aluminum oxide was more cytotoxic than lunar dust to both cell lines. In human lung fibroblasts 5, 10 and 50 g/sq cm of aluminum oxide induced 85%, 61% and 30% relative survival, respectively. For human skin fibroblasts the same concentrations induced 58%, 41% and 58% relative survival. Lunar dust was also cytotoxic to both cell lines, but its effects were seen at higher concentrations: 50, 100, 200 and 400 g/sq cm of lunar dust induced a 69%, 46%, 35% and 30% relative survival in the skin cells and 53%, 16%, 8% and 2% on the lung cells. Overall, for both compounds, lung cells were more sensitive than skin cells. This work was supported by a NASA EPSCoR grant through the Maine Space Grant Consortium (JPW), the Maine Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health., a Fulbright Grant (JM) and a Delta Kappa Gamma Society International World Fellowship (JM).
The Toxicologist, Supplement to Toxicological Sciences; 108; 1; 369-370|48th Annual Meeting of the Society of Toxicology; 15 - 19 Mar. 2009; Maryland; United States