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Facts About Riot Control Agents Interim document
Facts About Riot Control Agents
What riot control agents are
Riot control agents (sometimes referred to as “tear gas”) are chemical compounds that temporarily make people unable to function by causing irritation to the eyes, mouth, throat, lungs, and skin.
Several different compounds are considered to be riot control agents. The most common compounds are known as chloroacetophenone (CN) and chlorobenzylidenemalononitrile (CS). Other examples include chloropicrin (PS), which is also used as a fumigant (that is, a substance that uses fumes to disinfect an area); bromobenzylcyanide (CA); dibenzoxazepine (CR); and combinations of various agents.
Where riot control agents are found and how they are used
Riot control agents are used by law enforcement officials for crowd control and by individuals and the general public for personal protection (for example, pepper spray).
CS is also used in military settings to test the speed and ability of military personnel to use their gas masks.
How you could be exposed to riot control agents
Because they are liquids or solids (for example, powder), riot control agents such as CN and CS could be released in the air as fine droplets or particles.
If agents are released into the air, people could be exposed to them through skin contact, eye contact, or breathing.
How riot control agents work
The extent of poisoning caused by riot control agents depends on the amount of riot control agent to which a person was exposed, the location of exposure (indoors versus outdoors), how the person was exposed, and the length of time of the exposure.
Riot control agents work by causing irritation to the area of contact (for example, eyes, skin, nose) within seconds of exposure.
The effects of exposure to a riot control agent are usually short-lived (15–30 minutes) after the person has been removed from the source and decontaminated (cleaned off).
Immediate signs and symptoms of exposure to a riot control agent
People exposed to riot control agents may experience some or all of the following symptoms immediately after exposure:
Eyes: excessive tearing, burning, blurred vision, redness
Nose: runny nose, burning, swelling
Mouth: burning, irritation, difficulty swallowing, drooling
Lungs: chest tightness, coughing, choking sensation, noisy breathing (wheezing), shortness of breath
Skin: burns, rash
Other: nausea and vomiting
Long-lasting exposure or exposure to a large dose of riot control agent, especially in a closed setting, may cause severe effects such as the following:
Glaucoma (a serious eye condition that can lead to blindness)
Immediate death due to severe chemical burns to the throat and lungs
Respiratory failure possibly resulting in death
Showing these signs and symptoms does not necessarily mean that a person has been exposed to riot control agents.
Long-term health effects of exposure to riot control agents
Prolonged exposure, especially in an enclosed area, may lead to long-term effects such as eye problems including scarring, glaucoma, and cataracts, and may possibly cause breathing problems such as asthma.
If symptoms go away soon after a person is removed from exposure to riot control agents, long-term health effects are unlikely to occur.
How you can protect yourself, and what to do if you are exposed to riot control agents
Since inhalation is likely to be the primary route of exposure, leave the area where the riot control agents were released and get to fresh air. Quickly moving to an area where fresh air is available is highly effective in reducing exposure to riot control agents.
If the riot control agents were released outdoors, move away from the area where the agents were released. Avoid dense, low-lying clouds of riot control agent vapor.
Go to the highest ground possible, because riot control agents will form a dense vapor cloud that can travel close to the ground.
If the release of riot control agents was indoors, get out of the building.
If you are near a release of riot control agent, emergency coordinators may tell you to either evacuate the area or “shelter in place” inside a building to avoid being exposed to the chemical. For more information on evacuation during a chemical emergency, see “Facts About Evacuation”. For more information on sheltering in place during a chemical emergency, see “Facts About Sheltering in Place”.
If you think you may have been exposed to riot control agent, you should remove your clothing, rapidly wash your entire body with soap and water, and get medical care as quickly as possible.
Removing your clothing:
Quickly take off clothing that may have riot control agent on it. Any clothing that has to be pulled over the head should be cut off the body instead of pulled over the head.
If you are helping other people remove their clothing, try to avoid touching any contaminated areas, and remove the clothing as quickly as possible.
As quickly as possible, wash any riot control agent from your skin with large amounts of soap and water. Washing with soap and water will help protect people from any chemicals on their bodies.
If your eyes are burning or your vision is blurred, rinse your eyes with plain water for 10 to 15 minutes. If you wear contacts, remove them and put them with the contaminated clothing. Do not put the contacts back in your eyes (even if they are not disposable contacts). If you wear eyeglasses, wash them with soap and water. You can put your eyeglasses back on after you wash them. If you are wearing jewelry that you can wash with soap and water, you can wash it and put it back on. If it cannot be washed, it should be put with the contaminated clothing.
Effects of tear gas: Short
The effects of tear gas on the body include difficulty breathing, burning eyes, and rashes. Long-term effects may include blindness and respiratory failure. Learn more.
Effects of tear gas on the body
Medically reviewed by Dr. Sirisha Yellayi, DO — By Claire Sissons on July 31, 2020
Tear gas is a general term for chemicals that irritate the skin, lungs, eyes, and throat. There are immediate and potential long-term health effects from exposure.
Tear gas can cause more severe symptoms in people with underlying health conditions.
Most people recover quickly from tear gas effects. However, they should still seek medical advice if they come into contact with these substances.
What is tear gas?
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Tear gas may cause watering, burning, and redness of the eyes.
Image credit: KATHRYN ELSESSER/AFP via Getty Images
Despite the name, tear gas is not a gas. It consists of solid or liquid chemicals, usually within a spray or powder. These substances react with moisture to cause pain and irritation. This is why it mainly affects moist areas of the body, such as the eyes, mouth, throat, and lungs.
Tear gas may consist of many different chemicals. These include:
combinations of different chemicals
Other names for types of tear gas include mace, pepper spray, capsicum spray, and riot control agents. The strength of tear gas varies. Exposure to a more concentrated version or prolonged exposure can worsen symptoms.
Tear gas was initially developed as a chemical weapon for military use. These chemical weapons are now banned in warfare. However, they are commonly used by police or military personnel to break up crowds, or at protests to stop the movement of people.
There are strict guidelines for tear gas use in public. These include firing tear gas from a distance, only using it outdoors, and using the lowest possible strength chemical mix.
The immediate effects of tear gas on the eyes include:
watering, burning, and redness of the eyes
burning and irritation in the mouth and nose
nausea and vomiting
coughing wheezing skin irritation rashes
A person may also feel a tight sensation in the chest, or feel they are choking.
Tear gas effects should go away in 15–20 minutes.
As well as tear gas exposure on the body, the canisters used to fire these substances can also cause injury. They can be hot and may cause burns. Canister impacts may also result in damage to the face, eyes, or head.
Long-term effects and risk of death
If a person leaves the area where tear gas is present, and their symptoms go away soon afterward, their risk of long-term injury is low. However, scientists still do not know enough about the lingering effects of tear gas on the body.
Exposure to tear gas indoors, or in large amounts, may have serious health effects. These include:
glaucoma blindness chemical burns respiratory failure
A 2017 study of data collected over 25 years looked at tear gas effects on the body. The chemicals and canisters used to release them have caused severe injuries, permanent disability, and death.
There were two recorded fatalities out of 5,910 people in this study. In the first, the release of tear gas in a person’s home caused death by respiratory failure. The second death involved a tear gas canister impact that caused a fatal head injury.
In this study, 58 people reported a permanent disability after tear gas exposure. These disabilities included:
mental health effects
blindness brain injury
loss of the use of limbs
limb amputation skin conditions Additional factors
People with respiratory conditions have a higher risk of serious symptoms after tear gas exposure. These conditions include asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. There is also a risk that it could cause someone to stop breathing.
The risk of injury from tear gas is greater indoors than outside. Tear gas that becomes trapped inside can increase a person’s exposure to these chemicals.
Firing multiple tear gas canisters can increase the concentration of tear gas in the air. This may cause more severe symptoms.
Firstly, people need to get away from the tear gas. They should leave the building if they are indoors, get fresh air, and try to find higher ground to stay above the chemicals. If there is tear gas outdoors, people should stay inside a building with the windows and doors shut.
They should also cover their mouth and nose with a clean cloth or the inside of a jacket. A dust mask and goggles may offer some protection from tear gas.
A person should remove contaminated clothing as quickly as possible, without pulling it over their head. They can seal these clothes in a plastic bag and arrange for professional disposal.
People should wash their face and body with mild soap and water to remove the chemicals. They can use a lot of water to dilute the tear gas substances quickly. They should also wash glasses or jewelry before they wear them again.
Tear Gas Effects: Symptoms, Complications, Treatment & Prevention
Contact with tear gas leads to irritation of the respiratory system, eyes, and skin. Most people recover from exposure without any significant symptoms. However, children and people with preexisting respiratory conditions have a higher risk of complications. Learn more about the effects of tear gas.
How Does Tear Gas Affect the Human Body?
Medically reviewed by Kevin Martinez, M.D. — By Daniel Yetman on May 28, 2020
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Use of tear gas has become increasingly common
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over the past several decades. Law enforcement agencies in the United States, Hong Kong, Greece, Brazil, Venezuela, Egypt, and other areas use it to control riots and disperse crowds.
A 2013 review of research
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found that clinically significant health complications from tear gas are uncommon. However, there’s still debate surrounding its acceptable use.
Some people feel more research is needed to better assess its safety. Children and people with respiratory complications may be at a heightened risk of developing complications when exposed to tear gas.
In this article, we’ll look at how tear gas affects human health and what you can do if you’re exposed to it.
What is tear gas?
Tear gas is a collection of chemicals that cause skin, respiratory, and eye irritation. It’s usually deployed from canisters, grenades, or pressurized sprays.
Despite the name, tear gas isn’t a gas. It’s a pressurized powder that creates a mist when deployed. The most commonly used form of tear gas is 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile (CS gas). It was first discovered by two American scientists in 1928
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and the U.S. Army adopted it for controlling riots in 1959.
Other common types of tear gases include oleoresin capsicum (pepper spray), dibenzoxazepine (CR gas), and chloroacetophenone (CN gas).
Tear gas was used as a chemical weapon in World War I. However, it’s currently illegal for wartime use. In 1993, many of the world’s countries came together in Geneva to sign an international treaty to prevent chemical warfare. Article I(5) of the treaty states, “Each State Party undertakes not to use riot control agents as a method of warfare.”
Almost every country signed the treaty except for four U.N. member states: North Korea, South Sudan, Egypt, and Israel.
What effects does tear gas have on the human body?
Contact with tear gas leads to irritation of the respiratory system, eyes, and skin. The pain occurs because the chemicals in tear gas bind with one of two pain receptors called TRPA1 and TRPV1.
TRPA1 is the same pain receptor that the oils in mustard, wasabi, and horseradish bind to give them their strong flavors. CS and CR gas are more than 10,000 times more potent than the oil found in these vegetables.
The severity of the symptoms you experience after exposure to tear gas can depend on:
whether you’re in an enclosed space or an open space
how much tear gas is used
how close you are to the tear gas when it’s released
whether you have a preexisting condition that may be exacerbated
Most people recover from tear gas exposure without any significant symptoms. A 10-year study performed at University of California San Francisco examined 4,544 cases of pepper spray. Researchers found a 1 in 15 chance of developing severe symptoms after exposure.
Some of the potential effects of tear gas exposure include:
Immediately after exposure to tear gas, you can experience the following eye symptoms:
involuntary closing of eyelids
itching burning temporary blindness blurry vision chemical burns
Long-term exposure or exposure at a close range can lead to:
blindness hemorrhages nerve damage cataracts corneal erosion
Respiratory and gastrointestinal symptoms
Breathing in tear gas can cause irritation of your nose, throat, and lungs. People with preexisting respiratory conditions have a higher risk of developing severe symptoms such as respiratory failure.
Respiratory and gastrointestinal symptoms include:
burning and itching of your nose and throat
trouble breathing coughing salivating chest tightness nausea vomiting diarrhea respiratory failure In severe cases Trusted Source Trusted Source
, exposure to high concentrations of tear gas or exposure in enclosed spaces or for a prolonged period of time can lead to death.
When tear gas comes into contact with exposed skin, it can lead to irritation and pain. The irritation can last for days in severe cases. Other symptoms include:
itching redness blisters allergic dermatitis chemical burns
Other tear gas symptoms
According to Physicians for Human Rights, prolonged or repeated exposure to tear gas can cause symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Tear gas exposure can lead to increased heart rate or blood pressure. In people with preexisting heart conditions, this can lead to cardiac arrest or death.
Getting hit by a tear gas canister can lead to a traumatic injury.
Some animal research suggests that exposure to CS gas may increase the risk of having a miscarriage or cause fetal abnormalities. However, there isn’t enough human research at this time to know how CS gas affects fetal development in humans.