Over 70 countries ban use of tear gas and pepper spray, while our "bastions of liberty" use them liberally ...
Montreal medical team exposes documents on tear gas danger
May/June 2001

May 2, 2001--Because there is general denial from Canadian and U.S. officials about the toxic nature of tear gas and pepper spray chemicals used against citizens, and the fact that our countries won't join at least 70 other nations in banning the use of these chemicals, we find it necessary to publicize scientific information on their danger to health. This is especially necessary after the massive use of tear gas by the police in Quebec City during the FTAA protests last week.

Thank you and take care of yourselves, Quebec 2001 Medical Team

email: quebecmedical@hotmail.com
Postal address: c/o QPIRG Concordia 2130 Mackay Montreal, Quebec H3G 2J1

This is an excerpt from the June 2000 report on tear gas and health:

CROWD CONTROL TECHNOLOGIES (An appraisal of technologies for political control)

Workplan Ref.: EP/IV/B/STOA/99/14/01/A

Publisher: European Parliament Directorate General for Research Directorate A The STOA - Scientific and Technological Options Assessment - Programme

Luxembourg, June 2000 PE 168.394/FinSt. Author: OMEGA Foundation, Manchester, UK Editor: Graham Chambers, Head of STOA Unit Date: June 2000 PE number: PE 168. 394/Fin.St.
Available at: http://www.europarl.eu.int/stoa/publi/default_en.htm?redirected=1 then click on Crowd Control Technologies. The latest direct link to the Crowd Control Technologies is: http://www.europarl.eu.int/stoa/publi/pdf/99-14-01-a_en.pdf

Numbers at the end of the sentences often refer to a footnote number included at end of the text.

Page xx 4.1 Health & Safety Issues Regarding Chemical Irritant Weapons.

The Chemical Weapons Convention defines toxic chemicals as any chemical which through its chemical action on life processes can cause death, temporary incapacitation or permanent harm to humans or animals.75

Within this definition, all chemical irritants used for riot control should rightly be considered as toxic chemicals. Scientists working at the UK Chemical Defence Establishment had no illusions about any such toxic chemicals being given an absolutely safe bill of health.76 Indeed other scientists have argued that it is almost impossible to have a low toxicity weapon which is effective and safe at low concentrations.77

Does this comment apply to the most commonly used crowd control irritants? There are five elements to the alleged safety of any crowd control weapons based on the use of toxic chemicals to induce disabling effects, namely: the (i) innate relative toxicity of the chemical used; (ii) ability of security force personnel to use the dispersion mechanisms to deliver a measured dose which remains non-damaging and 'non-lethal'; (iii) relative toxicity and safe dose of any carrier, solvent or propellant used to deliver the chemical to target subject(s); (iv) safety from blast damage or fire hazard of any pyrotechnically dispersed irritant munition; (v) professionalism and training of any operatives to ensure that such devices are used within the context of their training, codes of conduct and in accordance with manufactures instructions.

Any failures in fulfilling set standards in these five elements must imply that the munition can no longer be described as non-hazardous or 'non-lethal'.

Considering the hazards associated with each of these element in turn:

4.1.1 Hazards of Crowd Control Chemicals are associated with the way chemical irritants enter the human body via skin, lungs, mouth, nose and eye. To assess whether the epithet 'safe' can be applied to the currently authorised chemical crowd control irritants, it is worth examining the biomedical research literature used to justify their introduction, particularly in regard to lung and eye damage, carcinogenicity, mutagenesis, effects on heart rate, positional asphyxia (asphyxiation aided by the body position of the victim) and alleged 'non-lethality'.

Experts on chemical warfare refer to safety margins i.e. the ratio of the lethal to the incapacitating dose. This is a finite measure. If it is surpassed, deaths will occur. However such agents are capable of producing a range of permanent injuries and such considerations are legally important when the targeting of the irritant is less than discriminate and innocent bystanders fall prey to any effects.

page xxi CS (the tear gas used in Quebec City)

There is extensive scientific literature on CS, one recent search claims to have found 115,107 articles. 89 Only some of the most salient aspects can be discussed here. Advocates of CS claim that high levels of exposure to CS are precluded because people are adverse to remaining where this agent is present. 90 More critical authors have noted the lack of epidemiologic inquiry on its use in actual field conditions.91 However, operational usage sometimes means individuals face additional punishment or even death if they seek to leave a contaminated zone. [...]

At higher levels of exposure, inhalation toxicology studies indicate CS can cause chemical pneumonitis (pneumonia) and fatal pulmonary edema. (Victims die by drowning in their own lung fluids).92 CS exposure can also lead to reactive airways (breathing) dysfunction.93 Oral toxicological studies note the facility of CS to cause severe gastro enteritis (intestinal irritation and ulcers) with perforation.94 CS is a primary skin irritant and some individuals will develop contact dermatitis even after what appears to be an unproblematic initial exposure and severe blistering can emerge several hours later.95

An exposure to even a low concentration of CS raises blood pressure and there is a particular risk of health damage to anyone over 30, under physical strain or having an undetected aneurysm (potential artery hemorrhage).96

At higher levels CS has been associated with heart failure, heptacellular (liver) damage and death.97 98 One US based CS manufacturer, Federal Laboratories, has warned that "Firing one Federal No. 230 Flite-Rite [tear gas projectile] in a room [eight-feet by eight-feet by seven-feet], could endanger the life of an average subject if he stayed in the room for seven minutes.99 CS from canisters has also caused acute mass chemical burns.100 (Figure 5 illustrates the severe blistering following exposure to French CS Spray).

In vitro laboratory testing has shown CS to be clastogenic, (i.e. causes disruption of chromosomes) and mutagenic (i.e. it has a facility to cause inheritable genetic changes in organisms).101 Other studies have shown CS to cause an increase in the number of abnormal chromosomes.102

The risks of a build up of exposure are increased because of the acquisition of tolerance to CS.103 This tolerance is stronger in those of higher commitment and or intelligence.104 One military study on the carcinogenicity (cancer causing) potential of CS was inconclusive but observed that chronic exposure to very low concentrations of CS is of greater concern and should be further studied.105 This is an important safety consideration for police officers who may be regularly exposed to cross contamination when using CS which is particularly persistent. Military CS1, a micronised powder version (and CS2 - a siliconized, micro-encapsulated version of CS1) are even more persistent and therefore form an environmental clean up hazard.

75. OPCW, "Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and On their Destruction, (Corrected Version)" 8 August 1994, the Hague, Netherlands.

76. "As with other foreign chemicals which man may be exposed, no matter how detailed, extensive and carefully effected are the pre-clinical toxicity investigations and observations in controlled human exposures, there can be no complete guarantee from such studies that there is absolute safety in use for a given chemical." Ballantyne, B. (1997) "Riot Control Agents - Biomedical and Health Aspects of the Use of Chemicals in Civil Disturbances". Medical Annual. pp.7-41.

77. "Politician and scientist alike must accept the inescapable conclusion that any substance capable of producing an intolerable irritation at low concentrations must also produce a concomitantly high toxicity. In other words, the existence of ideal riot agents of sufficient safety not to impair the health of rioters or accidentally exposed innocents is merely notional." Jones, R. (1973) "Return To Riot Control". New Scientist. May 31, pp.546-547.

82. Chung, C.W., Giles, A.L. (1972) "Sensitization of guinea pigs to alpha-chloroacetophenone (CN) and ortho-chlorobenzylidene malononitrile (CS), tear gas chemicals". Journal of Immunology. 109. pp 284-293.

83. Pennys, N.S., Israel, R.M., Indgin, S.M. (1969) Contact dermatitis due to 1-chloroacetophenone and chemical mace". New England Journal of Medicine. 281. pp.413-415. See also Penney, N.S. (1971) "Contact dermatitis due to chloroacetophenone". Fed Proc. 30. pp96-99.

84. Oksala, A. and Salminen, L. (1975) "Eye Injuries Caused By Tear Gas Hand Weapons". Acta Opthalmologica. Vol 53. pp 908-913.

85. Levine, R.A., Stahl, C.J. (1968) "Eye injury caused by tear gas weapons". Amer.J. Opthalmol. 65. pp 497-508.

86. Rengstorff, R.H. (1969) "Tear gas and riot control agents: A review of eye effects". Optom Week. 60. pp 25-28.

87. Chapman, A.J., White, C. (1978) "Death resulting from Lachrymatory agents". J.Forensic Sci. 23. pp 527-530.

88. Stein, A.A., Kirwan, W.E. (1964) "Chloroacetophenone (teargas poisoning): A clinico-pathologic report". J. Forensic Sci. 9. pp 374-382. lxxv and CN) in rats and rabbits". Arch. Env. Health. 24. pp 449-454.

89. Not surprisingly, much of the critical comment has come from commercial promoters of alternative products e.g. Bleetman, A., Peet, A. (1999) 'Incapacitant devices: an evaluation of Oleoresin Capsicum spray'. Unpublished report to Alarmgrip UK, 11 August.

95. Sidell, F.R. (1997) "Riot Control Agents" in 'Medical Aspects of Chemical and Biological Warfare', Chapter 12. Borden Institute, Walter Reed Army Medical Center. pp 308-325.

96. Schindel, H.J. (1993) "Assessment of health effects of CS gas". Gesundddheitwesen, Germany. 55. pp 372-5.

97. See Himsworth, H. (1971) "Report of the Inquiry into the Medical and Toxicological Aspects of CS (orthochlorobenzylidene Malonitrile, II Enquiry into Toxicological Aspects of CS and its Use for Civil purposes". HMSO, England. Also Save the Children (1989) "Report on the status of Palestinian Children: Uprising in the Occupied territories 9 Dec 1987-9 East Jerusalem, Israel". And Krapf, R., Thalmann, H. (1981) "Akute Exposition durch CS-Rauchgas und linische Beobachtungen". Schweiz Med Wochenschr. 11. 2056-2060 cited in Hu et. al. 1989, op.cit

98. See New Scientist, 5 February 1976, "Teargas in high doses is lethal" p.267. See also "The Himsworth Committee Report". HMSO, Cmnd 4775, 1971.

99. Quoted from Nairn, A. (1988) "Tears of Rage". Multinational Monitor. Vol 9. no4, April.

100. Zekri, A.M.B., King, W.W.K., Yeung, R. and Taylor, W.R.J. (1995) "Acute mass burns caused by o-chlorobenzylidene malononitrile (CS) tear gas". Burns. Vol. 21. No.8. pp 586-589.

101. Hu, H., Fine, J., Epstein, P., Kelsey, K., Reynolds, P. and Walker, B. (1989) "Tear Gas - Harrassing Agent or Toxic "Chemical Weapon". JAMA. August 4. pp 660-663.

102. Schmid, E., Bauchinger, M. (1991) "Analysis of the aneuploidy inducing capacity of 2-chlorobenzylidene malononitrile (CS) and metabolites in V79 Chinese hamster cells." Mutagesis. 6. pp 303-5.

103. Beswick, F.W., Holland, P., Kemp, K.H. (1972) "Acute effects of exposure to ortho-chlorobenzylidene malononitrile and the development of tolerance". Br. J. Ind. Med. 29. pp 298-306.

104. Klapper, J.A., McColloch, M.A., Merkey, R.P. (1971) "The Relationship of Personality to Tolerance of an Irritant Compound." Edgewood Arsenal Medical Research Laboratories, USA. Technical Report 4577.

105. McNamara, B.P., Rennie, R.A., Rozmiarek, H., Ford, D.F., Owens, E.J. (1973) "CS: A study of Carcinogenicity". Edgewood Arsenal National Technical Information Service, USA. Publication FB TR-73027.

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