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Sep 22, 2021
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Tear gas can be more dangerous than commonly believed

Various tear gases are regularly used by law enforcement agencies to pacify protesters. It is believed that such substances should only temporarily induce intense tears, eyelid spasm, superficial pain and disorientation, without causing long-term injury or death.

The scientific basis for the relative safety of tear gas is weak. Although historically considered “non-lethal” or “less lethal,” this group of war gases, which began to be used in the 1920s, were associated with more than 60 deaths in the United States alone between 1990 and 1995, according to Atlantic. …

Scientists from the University of Minnesota analyzed data from studies on the effects of tear gas on people. (Some of this work has previously been taken as the basis for the compilation of use guides). It turns out that there are few studies evaluating the long-term effects of tear gas on health and the environment.

  • Try to leave the area where it is being applied; this will reduce the severity of the impact. You need to get to a place with clean air. Avoid dense clouds of gas along the way. Keep in mind that the gas is relatively heavy, climbing to a height can help. If gas has been applied in a building, it should be left.
  • At the earliest opportunity, you need to take off your clothes that have gotten gas, wash your entire body with soap. It is best to cut open contaminated clothing that needs to be removed over the head. Throw away clothing in a tightly packed bag (ideally at a hospital).
  • If gas gets into eyes, they should be rinsed with running water for 10-15 minutes. If you wear contact lenses, remove and no longer wear them. Glasses and jewelry just need to be washed.
  • Seek medical attention if necessary.

Source – CDC

“Tear gases and other chemical agents to control demonstrations have long been used to target civilians, although they are prohibited in warfare,” said Jennifer Brown, lead author of the study.

Brown reported that most of the research on tear gas was done in the 1960s and 1970s. Since then, the information has hardly been updated, but at the same time, the methods of using gases are evolving.

The authors of the work emphasize that the current doses of CS tear gas used by the police were established from the results of lethal experiments on animals and projected onto people using a formula that is rather dubious from the point of view of scientists. In this case, for example, The European Environment Agency believes that even the smallest doses of this gas have serious or prolonged effects on humans.

Scientists, in particular, criticized studies of the effect of tear gas on vulnerable people (with asthma, hypertension and other diseases) – also for the lack of objective data on this problem. According to experts, the known facts about the danger of gases for asthmatics and hypertensive patients are simply ignored. For this reason, the authors of the work are convinced, more research is needed before calling gases safe in the long term.


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