The ISS shows higher pollutants than most homes

The ISS shows higher pollutants than most homes

The International Space Station (ISS) has been home to more than 250 astronauts who have lived and worked aboard the orbiting laboratory for months at a time. Unlike homes on Earth, the space station has been found to have higher levels of chemical pollution suspended in dust.

A group of scientists analyzed a sample of dust from air filters aboard the International Space Station and found higher concentrations of potentially harmful chemical compounds than those found in ground dust in most American homes. Last the findings Posted Tuesday in Environmental Science and Technology Lettersand could have implications for the design of future space stations that will succeed the International Space Station.

Some of the pollutants found in space dust, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), have been banned or their use has been restricted due to their potential effects on human health. Some polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, for example, can increase the risk of cancer. PFAS, also known as the “forever chemicals,” is a problem because Its persistence in the environment, its potential for bioaccumulation, and its association with many adverse health effects on humans.

However, the team of researchers behind the study notes that while the concentrations of chemicals found on the International Space Station were higher than those found in most homes, “Levels of these compounds were generally within the range found on Earth,Scientists write.

How did these pollutants make their way to the International Space Station in the first place? The researchers suggest that this may be due to the use of inorganic flame retardants such as diammonium hydrogen phosphate to make the fabrics and harness aboard the space station non-flammable. Chemical pollutants could also have made their way to the International Space Station along with astronauts, who sometimes board the space station with commercial devices such as cameras, MP3 players, tablet computers, or clothing.

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The International Space Station is equipped with a ventilation and pollutant removal system, which absorbs carbon dioxide and gaseous pollutants and recycles the air eight to 10 times per hour. However, researchers aren’t entirely sure how efficient this system will be at removing chemical pollutants detected in the space station’s dust.

The International Space Station is scheduled to be decommissioned in 2030, but the space station serves as a blueprint for designing future orbital laboratories currently in the works. “Our findings have implications for future space stations and habitats, as it may be possible to exclude many sources of pollutants through careful material selections in the early stages of design and construction,” said Stuart Harrad, a researcher at the University of Birmingham, and co-author of the paper. New, he said in a statement.

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