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Toxic dust may prevent human settlement of Mars

Last Updated: Monday, May 13, 2013 - 20:04

Washington: Toxic dust on Mars may severely hamper the planned human settlement missions on the red planet as it is dangerous to human health, experts have warned.
Speaking at the "Humans 2 Mars Summit" in Washington DC, experts expressed concern about the dangers of Martian dust.

They believe the health hazards posed by the Martian regolith could prevent humans from colonising the planet anytime soon, `Phys.Org` reported.

The announcement comes at a time when a Dutch company, Mars One, is selling tickets for a one way trip to the red planet, and reports that over 78,000 people have signed up for the mission so far.

NASA`s chief health and medical officer, Richard Williams, said that perchlorates appear to be widespread on the martian surface. The fine dust material produced by perchloric acid has been known to cause thyroid problems in people here on Earth.

Grant Anderson, co-founder of Paragon Space Development said that gypsum is just as problematic.

NASA`s Mars Curiosity rover has found veins of gypsum near the red planet`s surface. It has been known to cause a condition similar to black lung in coal miners in people exposed to it for long periods of time.

In addition, the presence of silicates on the Martian surface - if breathed in - can cause reactions with water in the lungs and result in the creation of harmful chemicals.

Experts said the martian dust could pose health hazards because of the difficulty of removing it from space suits and boots.

NASA learned during the Apollo space missions that Moon dust was a much bigger problem than had been anticipated. They have reported in the past on the large amounts of dust that stuck to astronaut suits and boots.

Fine grains stick to materials because of static electricity, and on Mars would likely be sucked into a controlled environment by an air-lock, the report said.

Health specialists fear the dust would build up in air filters and living quarters over time, adding yet another life threatening element to the list of other known hazards for the people who seek to colonise the planet.

Scientists are yet to find out a way to remove the fine particulates from suits and boots and because of that, manned missions to Mars could be put on hold indefinitely.


First Published: Monday, May 13, 2013 - 20:04

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