What They Are:
Tear gas (also called CS, CN, or CX) and
pepper spray (OC) are chemical compounds that are weapons designed to be
used by the military and police to disperse crowds and subdue individuals.
They are mucous membrane (the inside of your mouth and nose, among other
places, are lined with mucous membranes) and skin irritants. They are mixed
with solvents, and delivered through the use of propellants. Some of these
solvents are registered with the US Environmental Protection Agency as
causing cancer, birth defects and genetic mutations. In Seattle, one batch
of tear gas contained methylene chloride, a highly toxic solvent which can
cause mental confusion, headache, tingling of the limbs, rapid heartbeat,
visual and auditory hallucinations, menstruation cycle disruption,
spontaneous abortion, and varying effects on lungs and the digestive system.
How They Are Deployed:
Tear gas and pepper spray can be sprayed
from small hand-held dispensers or large fire-extinguisher size tanks.
Pepper spray also comes in plastic projectiles which are fired at the chest
to knock the wind out of a person, who then takes a deep breath, of pepper
from the burst projectile. Tear gas is most commonly deployed via canisters,
which are fired into crowds, sometimes directly at people.
If you are exposed to either, you may
- stinging, burning in your eyes, nose,
mouth and skin
- excessive tearing, causing your vision
- runny nose
- increased salivation
- coughing and difficulty breathing
- disorientation, confusion and sometimes
- intense anger from pepper spray
exposure is a common response; this can be useful if you are prepared for
it and are able to focus it towards recovery and returning to the action.
The good news is that this is temporary.