How Tear Gas Works

By Adem Lewis / in , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , /

Picture this: You are walking down a long
boulevard arm-in-arm with other protesters, chanting, shouting expletives, expressing
your discontent with the day’s political or social concern. You grow in number as you approach your rendezvous
point but halfway through your march, you are blocked by a wall of riot shields and
the heavily geared riot police to make sure that the protest does not go devastatingly
awry. Unfortunately, things do not go as planned. Somehow, somewhere, someone started a ruckus
and everything begins to fall apart. What was intended as a peaceful demonstration
turned into a riot. Law enforcers begin to move in to subdue the
violence and protesters begin to defend themselves from potential harm and abuse and, like a
silent missile being shot into the sky, a silver tin canister flies above everyone’s
heads, a thick, white plume of what seems to be smoke trailing from behind it. People begin to disperse as the canister lands
with and the thick cloud of smoke-like vapour begins to spread and thicken. Panic ensues and people run away from it;
those who are unlucky get their senses bombarded with a stinging sensation that stabs the eyes
and constricts the lungs and airways. It’s tear gas. Tear gas is a collective term for lachrymatory
agents that are a mixture of, generally, non-lethal compounds designed to irritate the respiratory
system and, most commonly, the eyes which may incapacitate anyone with temporary blindness. These compounds are used by many for self-defence
but are most commonly employed by law enforcement officers and the military to disperse large
crowds or in much more dangerous missions. WHAT IS TEAR GAS AND HOW DOES IT WORK? As mentioned earlier, tear gas is a collective
term for a number of different riot control agents. Despite its misleading namesake, it is not
gaseous. Instead, it is an aerosol mixture of multiple
compounds that are referred to as tear producers or lacrimators. Among these compounds is Chloroacetophenone
or CN which is present in Mace sprays. Modern tear gas, on the other hand employs
other ingredients but can always be traced back to its most basic ingredient Orthochlorobenzalmalononitrite
or CS, a crystalline substance that exudes a pepper-like odour. CS was first developed and synthesised in
the 1950s and became the replacement of the much more powerful CN – and, to this day,
it is still one of the most go-to, non-lethal riot control agents. Though pepper spray may seem to have the same
effects as tear gas, they are a little different because its effects are more inflammatory
than lacrimatory. It is, however, more debilitating but is difficult
to disperse and so it is used more commonly as personal protection against assaults or
wild animals. Despite being a lot less lethal than bullets,
tear gas are still powerful irritants that can, upon contact with the skin, cause severe
burning sensations where prolonged exposure may cause severe rashes and chemical burns. When the agent reaches the eyes the chemicals
begin to react differently as the body begins to send signals to the brain, activating its
natural defences sending out a flood of tears to wash out the irritant. This is where tear gas actually got its name. In severe cases, tear gas victims may experience
temporary blindness especially when exposed to the chemicals for a prolonged period of
time. The chemical compounds in tear gas also have
irritating effects to the respiratory system. When inhaled, the substance kicks the immune
system into hyper-drive as the body begins to produce mucous and induces the person to
cough and retch in order to keep the irritants out of the body and expel any that have entered. In severe cases, the respiratory system becomes
irritated that a person will find himself or herself having difficulty breathing and
his upper respiratory tract tensing up. However, the damage done by tear gas is, generally,
not permanent. Hours after exposure, the body goes back to
normal as the effects subside. In rare cases where people are in constant,
prolonged exposure to the chemicals – especially those who get severe allergic reactions to
certain types of chemicals and substances – they may develop irreversible damage to
the eyes such as glaucoma. Even worse is death when the substance cause
serious chemical burns inside the respiratory system that leads to cardiac arrest; such
was the case of a Palestinian woman in 2011 when she had prolonged exposure to tear gas
during a protest at the West Bank. TEMPORARY RELIEF
In the news, people have been photographed pouring milk over their eyes and faces to
alleviate the stinging pain from tear gas. It has been claimed by many that this home-made
remedy has helped in getting rid of the effects of the lacrimatory agent. In the protest at Ferguson, demonstrators
have been seen entering a local McDonald’s and having milk poured all over their faces. Activists from Gaza and Israel, on the other
hand, combat the fierce effects of tear gas by washing their faces with cola. Whatever the method, it would seem that there
is an unspoken truth that you should not use water to wash-off tear gas because not only
does it have no effect but it may also increase the irritation. Several methods have been shared by people
online. In a flier published by individuals who were
part of the 2011 Occupy Movement, they advised people to use antacids dissolved in water
to relieve the body of the effects of the chemicals. However, the US Army Center for Health Promotion
and Preventive Medicine, and the New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene hands
out much detailed advice on relieving onseself of the effect of tear gas. Contrary to popular opinion, these two departments
advise individuals who have been affected by tear gas to wash their eyes with clean
water as soon as possible for at least fifteen minutes in order to completely wash off harmful
chemicals. If the gas has been inhaled, individuals are
advised to get out of the affected area immediately and seek fresh air, breathing in and out,
getting as much oxygen as possible. In cases where medics are present, these professionals
may administer asthma medication in order to help the air passages especially in severe
cases. If tear gas happens to enter through the mouth
and ingested, individuals should drink plenty of water and, if they can, induce vomiting
and seek immediate medical attention. Clothes that have been doused with the chemicals
should be washed separately from un-contaminated clothing and avoid using chlorine-based detergents
to prevent harmful chemical reactions that may mix with CS compounds. THE LEGALITY OF TEAR GAS
While tear gas is considered non-lethal, there are laws surrounding and controlling the use
of the substance. According to the Chemical Weapons Convention
of 1993, tear gas is strictly banned in warfare but, in cases where domestic riots are concerned,
it is perfectly legal to employ it. However, one expert pointed out the paradox
of the legality of tear gas use. In a statement made by Sven-Eric Jordt, a
Yale University School of Medicine Nerve Gas expert, he says that “Tear gas under the
Geneva Convention is characterized as a chemical warfare agent, and so it is precluded for
use in warfare, but it is used very frequently against civilians. That’s very illogical.”

41 thoughts on “How Tear Gas Works

  1. In the 1970 to 1990, The tear gas smokes are everywhere in South Korea because the protests held by communist and Pro North Korea.

  2. So tear gas is not the same as mustard gas? Or are they the same? Sorry for my lack of knowledge but I would like to learn. Thankyou for tolerating me.

  3. Every soldier and most cops are exposed to tear (CS) gas in their basic training. In the army we went into the gas chamber filled with CS gas once a year, or after receiving(being issued) a new mask.

    Many people can adapt and still function in CS gas after learning how to breathe differently

  4. Funny to me that the Army can't use tear gas against enemy combatants because it's a "chemical" weapon, but it's just fine to use against your own population. Same goes for hollow point bullets. Illegal for warfare because it opens up inside the body causing more trauma to soft tissue and undue suffering, but just about every police officer who carries a service weapon has them.

  5. Hey there Jasmina flower petal! Would you believe "how does tear gas work" was a question I asked my once in the army dad? Thanks for explaining because he couldn't. He knew how to throw it and survive it… That's it
    It seems it really was as bad as we a said… We teased him about fearing a gas that makes you cry 🙁 oh dear

  6. Please note: tear gas was used 1916 in WW!. As the first chemical agent. It failed Soldiers peed on their faces to remove its effects. Instead of using birdshot and rock salt, police started using tear gas to remove crowds of people from the street.

  7. Did you recite that whole video on one breath? Please, just a small pause at the end of each sentence will make you sound much less mechanical. Possibly it was just badly edited to make you sound this way.

  8. I don't like this chick.
    Is mike still on this channel at all anymore? I like his food vids but not as much as the '"paranormal" videos..

  9. How tear gas work's?army uses all you're own farts as tear gas mixs with everything from stinky cheese,stinky socks,rotton eggs,etc= you get mother of all tear gas,lol😀😁😂🤣

  10. How many people have died from CS, you ask? 1. He was shot in the head by a 40mm cs canister. Just got done with my annual chamber. You will be ok

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