Posts Tagged ‘astronauts’

Extraterrestrial Exposures: Astronaut Medical Oddities

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

Every profession has its unique occupational risks and hazards, and some also have widely recognized work-related health risks associated with the profession. For example, the mining profession is associated with black lung disease; poultry and other food processing workers are at high risk for repetitive stress injuries, and so on. Or see Alice’s Mad Hatter and Work-Related Illness for an interesting historical perspective. Even seemingly safe professions such as musicians have work-related health risks.
Some workers we had never really considered from this perspective are astronauts. It’s not that we didn’t think they took risks – how could you possibly watch a metal cylinder being hurled into the farthest reaches of space and not think of the risks? But beyond curiosity about what they ate and how they handled bodily functions (oh come on, everyone wonders about that), we hadn’t given much thought to the more mundane day-to-day health hazards that astronauts face, and we feel safe in saying that most of you probably haven’t either.
We think that is about to change. The intriguingly titled Blindness, Bone Loss, and Space Farts: Astronaut Medical Oddities offers a fascinating glimpse into the “curious, bizarre, and potentially dangerous ways that space affects the human body and mind.”
Adam Mann of Wired Science says that, “Though astronauts have been flying above the Earth for more than half a century, researchers are still working to understand the medical toll that space takes on travelers’ bodies and minds. Astronauts must deal with a highly stressful environment, as well as weakening bones and muscles and the ever-present dangers of radiation. If people are ever to venture far from our home planet, such obstacles will need to be overcome.”
We aren’t going to go into much more detail about the article, beyond piquing your interest with these few teasers: “flying space barf” “foot molting” and “bugs in space.”
Pay attention people, because these are the looming exposures for commuting workers – and the future may not be as far away as you think.