Construction of the International Space Station (ISS)—a multinational effort—began in 1999. In its present configuration, the ISS is expected to carry a crew of four to eight astronauts for up to 180 days. Because the space station will be a closed and complex environment, some contamination of its internal atmosphere is unavoidable. Several hundred chemical contaminants are likely to be found in the closed-loop atmosphere of the space station, most at very low concentrations. Important sources of atmospheric contaminants include off-gassing of cabin materials, operation of equipment, and metabolic waste products of crew members. Other potential sources of contamination are releases of toxic chemicals from experiments, manufacturing activities performed on board the space station, and accidental spills and fires. The water recycling system has also been shown to produce chemical contaminants that can enter the cabin air. Therefore, the astronauts potentially can be chronically exposed to low levels of airborne contaminants and occasionally to high levels of contaminants in the event of accidents, such as a leak, spill, or fire.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) seeks to ensure the health, safety, and functional abilities of astronauts and to prevent the exposure of astronauts to toxic levels of spacecraft contaminants. Consequently, exposure limits need to be established for continuous exposure of astronauts to spacecraft contaminants for up to 180 days (for normal space-station operations) and for short-term (1-24 hr) emergency exposures to high levels of contaminants.
Federal regulatory agencies, such as the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), have not promulgated exposure limits for the duration of ex-
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Spacecraft Maximum Allowable Concentrations for Selected Airborne Contaminants: Volume 4
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Spacecraft Maximum Allowable Concentrations for Selected Airborne Contaminants: Volume 4 posures encountered in the space station or for conditions of microgravity. In 1972, the National Research Council's Committee on Toxicology (COT) first recommended maximum levels for continuous and emergency exposures to spacecraft contaminants (NRC 1972). However, that early report did not provide documentation of toxicity data or the rationale for the recommended exposure levels. Toxicity data for most of the compounds were not well developed at that time, and the risk-assessment methods were rudimentary. COT has since recommended emergency exposure guidance levels (EEGLs) and continuous exposure guidance levels (CEGLs) for many chemical substances for the U.S. Department of Defense (NRC 1984a,b,c,d; 1985a,b; 1986; 1987; 1988). However, EEGLs and CEGLs are not available for most spacecraft contaminants. Because of the experience of COT in recommending EEGLs and CEGLs, NASA requested that the NRC establish guidelines for developing spacecraft maximum allowable concentrations (SMACs) that could be used uniformly by scientists involved in preparing SMACs for airborne contaminants and review the SMACs for individual contaminants to ascertain whether they are consistent with the guidelines. SMACs are intended to provide guidance on chemical exposures during normal operations of spacecraft as well as emergency situations. Short-term (1 to 24 hr) SMACs refer to concentrations of airborne substances (such as a gas, vapor, or aerosol) that will not compromise the performance of specific tasks by astronauts during emergency conditions or cause serious or permanent toxic effects. Such exposures might cause reversible effects, such as mild skin or eye irritation, but they are not expected to impair judgment or interfere with proper responses to emergencies. Long-term (up to 180 days) SMACs are intended to avoid adverse health effects (either immediate or delayed) and to prevent decremental change in crew performance under continuous exposure to chemicals in the closed environment of the space station for as long as 180 days. In response to NASA's request to establish guidelines for developing SMACs and to review SMAC documents for selected spacecraft contaminants, the NRC assigned the project to the COT, which convened the Subcommittee on Guidelines for Developing Spacecraft Maximum Allowable Concentrations for Space Station Contaminants. The subcommittee included experts in toxicology, epidemiology, medicine, physiology, biochemistry, pathology, pharmacology, neurotoxicology, industrial hygiene, statistics, and risk assessment. The subcommittee prepared Guidelines for Developing Spacecraft Maximum Allowable Concentrations for Space Station Contaminants (NRC 1992). That report provides guidance for deriving SMACs from available toxicological and epidemiological data. It also provides guidance on what data to use, how to evaluate the data for appropriateness, how to perform