NASA Tackles Dust Allergies in Space

in Healthy Home, Indoor Allergies
Published: January 12, 2017

NASA dustPhoto: NASA
It turns out the International Space Station (ISS) collects dust like any home here on Earth.

The dust has been provoking allergic reactions for the astronauts who call the ISS home. Crew members in space have complained of dust allergies and nose and eye irritation. NASA says the ISS cabin air has a high concentration of tiny particles that can be inhaled.

On Earth, we control our allergies to dust mites by cleaning our homes with HEPA-filtered vacuums. As well, we often tear out dust-mite-collecting carpets. While these allergies can be bad on the home planet, at least dust down here dust will settle.

Aboard the space station, it’s a different story – one of floating dust that’s easily inhaled.

Dust Allergies in Space: Collecting Data

NASA is undertaking an experiment to sample airborne particles on the station. The intent is to improve the health and wellness of space station crew members.

“Collecting this data will help us to ultimately build a particulate matter monitor so NASA can improve the environment for astronauts on station and other long-term missions in deep space,” says Dr. Marit Meyer of the NASA Glenn Research Center.

The space agency plans to collect airborne particles in the ISS through two portable devices. The samples will be studied by scientists using a range of microscopic techniques on Earth.

“For six hours at a time the sampler collects particles as small as nanometer sizes, given off by the astronauts where they exercise and work,” Dr. Meyer says.

NASA is hoping the data they collect will help determine if the current filtration system is suitable as they look at long-term exploration missions.

For more on the space station sampling experiment, see this NASA webpage.