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Tear Gas: Soldiers Prohibited From Using It in Warfare but Cops Using It Against Peaceful Protesters

A main chemical in tear gas is 2-chlorobenzylidene malonitrile, or “CS.” CS is a powder that is aerosolized when the canister or grenade containing it is discharged.

A 2016 scientific review revealed that the effects of CS can be redness, itching, rashes, and oozing blisters. When inhaled, CS causes coughing fits, choking, and chest tightness. In the eyes, CS can cause bleeding, tearing of the corneas, and possible traumatic nerve damage. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that tear gas may cause “immediate death” from severe burns to the throat and lungs.

Security specialist Dan Kaszeta, who has written about tear gas in Nature and elsewhere, said in an email, “Tear gas is often used without proper care for consequences of employment. Many of the uses seen in previous days are problematic. Tear gas is originally meant to disperse crowds but many crowds have legal rights of assembly.”

Even though police training manuals warn against using it in confined spaces, a Washington, D.C. man reported that police shot tear gas into his home after he invited protesters inside who were being pepper-sprayed by police. And the tear gas canisters cause severe injuries.

Balin Brake, a 21-year-old part-time video editor, lost one eye during a demonstration in Indiana where police fired a canister. (Police claim it was unintentional.)

Members of the media in Minneapolis told of police firing tear gas at close range.

Compounding the severity of the issue is the current COVID-19 pandemic. An infected person exposed to tear gas is naturally, perhaps reflexively, going to remove any protective mask while coughing or choking. This will spread droplets of bodily fluid containing the disease. And while not yet confirmed by research, it is suspected that mouths, throats, and lungs inflamed from exposure to tear gas are more susceptible to contracting COVID-19.

The widespread use of tear gas by police across the country against peaceful protesters is but one more example of the systemic police brutality being protested. 


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