Tear gas has been banned for use in armed conflict. However, the U.S. police have repeatedly used the chemical weapon against people in a protest in recent weeks, following the death of George Floyd.
Just recently, on Monday, Business Insider reports that tear gas was diffused on peaceful crowds gathering nearby shortly before U.S. President Trump came out of the White House for a photo-op.
Even though tear gas is not considered as a deadly weapon, health experts say it is far more hazardous than publicized, especially in the middle of a global pandemic.
Different chemicals are used as riot-control agents, but the most common one is tear gas. Scientifically known as 2-chlorobenzylidene malonitrile (CS), it is known to cause temporary irritation of the eyes and the mucosal surface of the respiratory tract.
Although set up as a spray, the tear gas mode of CS is an aerosolized powder that comes out when the canister or a grenade containing the substance blows up. Not only does it affect the eyes and mucous membranes, but it can also upset any part of the body it comes in contact with.
Adverse Effects of Tear Gas
A scientific review published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Science in 2016 lays out a long list of health effects from exposure to tear gas. When inhaled, the gas causes bouts of coughing, which could eventually lead to chest tightness and choking.
On the skin, the substance can cause blisters, rashes, and itching. Finally, when coming in contact with the eye's mucosa, it could result in bleeding, tearing of the corneas, and even traumatic nerve damage.
The consequences of exposure to the gas are supposedly short-lasting and comparatively mild, but those assumptions stem from early animal experiments and small studies involving healthy, young men.
Evidence that the effects of tear gas are dreadful could be seen around the world as police continue to use the substance to control riots and protests.
For example, a 2014 study of people living in Turkey, a country with a long history of having protests, found that those exposed time and again to tear gas were twice as likely to have breathing problems than a control group.
Furthermore, the findings suggested that they were also at higher risk of developing chronic bronchitis. Other studies have also documented chemical burns caused by the grenade explosion or a heavy dose, along with severe eye injuries.
Brutal Truth: Tear Gas is Still Being Allowed
Media outlets and countless social media posts across the country continue to document the police's indiscriminate use of tear gas and pepper spray against peaceful protestors and journalists.
An example is 21-year-old Balin Brake, an editor at a local television station in Indiana, who reportedly lost his left eye after being struck by a tear gas canister during a protest. Minneapolis journalists also reported that police shot at them with tear gas at a close range.
Spectators feel that by allowing the chemical weapon to be used again, it just evidently shows another illustration of the systemic police brutality, which is why people are protesting in the first place.