US astronaut Jeffrey Williams packages air samples he took after a toxic spill aboard the ISS (Image: NASA TV)
Three astronauts cleaned up a chemical spill onboard the International Space Station on Monday morning. The cleanup appears to have contained the problem and NASA believes the crew is safe. NASA says a small amount of toxic potassium hydroxide may have been released from an oxygen vent that is part of the Elektron oxygen generator on the Russian side of the space station. When inhaled, potassium hydroxide can cause a burning sensation, cough, sore throat and shortness of breath. The crew collected air samples to send to Earth later and activated a filtering system to try to rid the air of the chemical.
* 19 September 2006 * NewScientist.com news service