A team of researchers at the European Space Agency (ESA) has begun a study on the impact of lunar dust on human health.

The team will use simulated Moon dust mined from a volcanic region in Germany to test equipment and the behaviour of lunar dust.

The ESA noted that after Apollo astronauts encountered abrasive particles mixed in the lunar dust during their moonwalk their throats became sore and eyes watery.

The dust even ate away layers of spacesuit boots and damaged the vacuum seals of Apollo sample containers.

Scientists do not currently know how toxic the dust is for humans. However, a previous study showed that lunar soil simulants can destroy lung and brain cells following long-term exposure.

“We don’t know how bad this dust is. It all comes down to an effort to estimate the degree of risk involved.”

University of California pulmonary physiologist Kim Prisk said: “We don’t know how bad this dust is. It all comes down to an effort to estimate the degree of risk involved.”

Lunar dust contains silicate, a material usually found on planetary bodies with volcanic activity.

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Silicate causes inflammation and scarring on the lungs of miners who inhale the particles while working.

Furthermore, the low gravity of the Moon, which has one sixth of the Earth’s gravity, allows tiny particles to stay suspended for longer period and penetrate more deeply into the lungs.

Prisk, one of the 12 scientists involved in the ESA research, added: “Particles 50 times smaller than a human hair can hang around for months inside your lungs.

“The longer the particle stays, the greater the chance for toxic effects.”