In recent weeks, the use of tear gas has been put into the spotlight due to the crowd control measures implemented by police forces all across the United States. Protestors of the killing of George Floyd have been subject to tear gas by the police as this is quite an effective weapon for controlling a crowd. It causes so much irritation to the eyes and the mucous membranes, effectively paralyzing someone who has been exposed to it without causing any fatal injuries. You have no choice but to stop and retreat.
The Nature of Tear Gas
Tear gas is technically not a gas since it is a powder which is suspended or carried by a liquid. This solution is then put into a pressurized vessel, and when expelled out, would look like a gas. These minuscule powder pieces would then find their way into your eyes, throat, and mouth and cause their harm. Tear gas comes in several variants, with common ones containing the chemicals chloroacetophenone (CN) or chlorobenzylidenemalononitrile (CS), and one even involving capsaicin, which is the compound used in pepper spray. These compounds are then put into pressurized canisters and spray-type devices for effective usage.
Effects to the Body
With tear gas being released into the air, irritation to the skin, eyes, mouth, and throat occurs swiftly after. The chemicals present in the various tear gas types are formulated to make a person feel a burning sensation in these places. Even the skin would have a burning feeling, accompanied by pain felt everywhere due to the chemicals interacting with your body. One’s vision would also become blurred if the person can even open his or her eyes at all. Tear gas works dangerously quickly, with the launched canister expelling the gas within seconds of its deployment. Upon exposure, a person would begin to feel the effects immediately or within just a few seconds. These effects could last up to an hour, and no matter how much washing of the face and skin is done, the chemicals will not just simply go away.
The way tear gas works are that it affects pain receptors in the eyes, skin, and in a person’s entire respiratory system. While this means that tear gas should not have any long-lasting or permanent effects on the human body, the pain felt could be excruciating. An affected person would then begin to cough repeatedly as if that person was choking. The ability to see clearly would be impaired, the eyes experience spasms, and the person would have a runny nose. Other symptoms include the sensation of a burning mouth, excessive salivation, wheezing and catching one’s breath, having burning and itchy skin, and experiencing the urge to vomit.
The various ways in which tear gas attacks the human body can be summed up by saying that it’s an overall feeling of discomfort and pain. None of these sensations could kill, debilitate, or harm a person that would cause permanent effects. The tear gas itself doesn’t last for more than an hour, if you think about it. This makes this weapon very effective against crowds, dispersing or pushing them back, without physically harming them. There’s a group of people though who may develop further sickness from exposure to tear gas, and these are those with underlying lung disorders such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Tear gas could make them have a shortness of breath which could lead to nausea, fainting, or blacking out. Their underlying medical conditions could also worsen, which might lead to fatal consequences if not acted upon quickly.