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
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.
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