Life Support Systems
Section 4.3.5.
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Health Concerns in Space

The human intestines carry a huge biota that is normally, in a given individual, in an ecological balance. Some of the bacteria are ones that could, if out of balance, cause serious illness. Excrement also is a vector for a lot of diseases. For this reason, if for no other, it must be dealt with.

Small and isolated outposts show a decline in the vigor of their anti-bodies because they are not as heavily exercized as in populated areas. An illness that might give someone a sniffle in the disease ridden hotbed of Earth's great cities could run rampant through an isolated lunar population. Modern medicine might prevent deaths, but the consequences of an epidemic in a labor-short output might be disastrous.

So one has to get down to the basics of getting rid of disease vectors. For that reason, the communal sponge just won't hack it. There is no cheap, reliable, near-term, low-maintainence, long-lived method of building such a device. Keep in mind that I do not even consider the vacuum-dried sludge to be "totally" safe. Streptococci can go into a cyste form in which some survive even years in the space environment if slightly shielded from UV and such. Take a look at the photomicrographs of the ones found on the returned Surveyor parts.

Now there does come a point of diminishing returns, and in an outpost that point comes rather quicker than in a more settled land. But the issues do have to be faced.

There is another point which needs to be made: even in a nonspacecraft, a mere pressurized tube laying on the ground, one has to be very careful of what materials are used. Many common items outgas. This doesn't much bother us because we have at best the atmosphere of a planet, and at worst the atmosphere of a very large building with a not insignificant gas exchange rate with that outside buffer. Things which are innocuous to use on Earth could build to concentrations at which they are an annoyance, a discomfort -- or deadly.

Life Support Systems

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