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Spacecraft Maximum Allowable Concentrations for Manganese Compounds in Mars Dust

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INTRODUCTION: Exposure to excess manganese (Mn) can cause multiple toxicological outcomes in humans, most notably neurotoxicity. Ample epidemiological evidence suggests that chronic, low-level exposure causes subclinical cognitive effects. Because NASA astronauts will be exposed to Mars regolith, Spacecraft Maximum Allowable Concentrations (SMACs) were developed following an extensive literature review.

METHODS: Multiple databases were searched for information relevant to derivation of Mn SMAC values. An additional search for Mars dust data was performed. Risk assessment approaches were applied, including adjustments for space-relevant susceptibility to Mn effects, to develop limits for 1-h to 1000-d exposures. Rover data informed the assessment and enabled calculation of allowable total dust exposure based on Mn content.

RESULTS: Over 400 relevant sources were identified. Applicability of exposure characteristics and data collection methods influenced key study choice. SMACs ranging from 3 mg · m−3 (1 h) – 0.0079 mg · m−3 (1000 d) were set to protect primarily against neurocognitive and respiratory effects. Considering 0.38 wt% total Mn presence in the dust, maximum recommended total dust exposure should not exceed 790 mg · m−3 (1 h) – 2 mg · m−3 (1000 d).

DISCUSSION: This literature review allowed for identification of relevant studies to inform SMAC development. Manganese is one of several components to consider when developing an appropriate total dust limit for Martian dust; other dust elements may alter Mn bioavailability. Mission-specific activities may require alteration of assumptions regarding Mn dust concentration and exposure duration. However, based on expected toxicity of particulate matter itself, the acute SMACs are protective, even with transient exposure during activities that could produce higher concentrations.

Romoser AA, Ryder VE, McCoy JT. Spacecraft maximum allowable concentrations for manganese compounds in Mars dust. Aerosp Med Hum Perform. 2019; 90(8):709–719.
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Keywords: Mars dust; exposure limits; manganese toxicity; risk assessment

Document Type: Review Article

Publication date: August 1, 2019

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  • This journal (formerly Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine), representing the members of the Aerospace Medical Association, is published monthly for those interested in aerospace medicine and human performance. It is devoted to serving and supporting all who explore, travel, work, or live in hazardous environments ranging from beneath the sea to the outermost reaches of space. The original scientific articles in this journal provide the latest available information on investigations into such areas as changes in ambient pressure, motion sickness, increased or decreased gravitational forces, thermal stresses, vision, fatigue, circadian rhythms, psychological stress, artificial environments, predictors of success, health maintenance, human factors engineering, clinical care, and others. This journal also publishes notes on scientific news and technical items of interest to the general reader, and provides teaching material and reviews for health care professionals.

    To access volumes 74 through 85, please click here.
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