Tear Gas is a Chemical Weapon Banned in War.
The United States signed a Chemical Weapons Treaty in 1993 which completely banned the use of CS gas (tear gas) during wartime. In fact, there are MULTIPLE international treaties to which the United States belongs that ban the use of this type of weapon on the battle field.
Use of CS gas (and similar chemical weapons) is completely legal for use by the police and for personal self-defense. CS gas and pepper spray have become a police favorite for crowd control and are routinely used against our own citizens.
CS gas is not really a gas at all, but a fine, crystalline powder contained in a low-power grenade. Upon firing, the explosion disperses the chemical into the air, incapacitating people as the painful irritant accesses mucous membranes in the eyes, nose and mouth and airways. Small exposures will lead to coughing, crying and possibly vomiting, all of which will dissipate within an hour or so in most cases, but larger or more prolonged exposures can lead to chemical burns, blindness and even death due to internal chemical burns or respiratory failure. This is especially true for children, the elderly and anyone with pre-existing respiratory conditions.
Manufacturers warn that CS gas and similar weapons should never be used indoors. Even so, in April of 1993, law enforcement in Waco, TX hurled over 400 canisters of CS gas into a building containing women and children in an attempt to end the stand-off with the Branch Davidians. This was less than 4 months after signing the 1993 Chemical Weapons Treaty.
Should you find yourself exposed to tear gas, Physicians for Human Rights recommend the following:
• Get out of the cloud of tear gas and away from the general area as soon as possible. Seek high ground, as most forms of tear gas are heavier than the surrounding air. The closer you are to the ground, the higher the concentration of gas.
• Walk, don't run. Running may cause you to breath more heavily, filling your lungs with more tear gas. Try to keep your breathing even.
• If your eyes have been exposed and are burning or blurry, flush them with WATER immediately. Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth. Use water from your water bottle to flush, pushing water from the inside corner of the eye outward towards the ear. If you can find an open drinking fountain or sink in a public restroom, flush your eyes with water for 10 to 15 minutes.
• There is no evidence that baking soda or milk is better than cool water alone. There is one small randomized control trial that found that baby shampoo is no better than water. Using baby wipes or make-up wipes if water is not immediately available may cause increased irritation.
• If possible, and if you are not affected yourself, help others by moving them to a clean, ventilated area.
• Do not try to remove the tear gas canisters, as doing so may put you at an increased risk for further harm and injury.
• Change your clothes as soon as possible. Rinse your body as soon as you get to a location with a shower. Take off your shoes outside your home to keep them from bringing any powder indoors.
• Shed all the clothes you were wearing and hang them in an open, ventilated area for at least 48 hours before washing them. if you are not able to keep them in an open place, store them in a sealed bag until they are ready to be washed. Do not mix them with uncontaminated garments, as CS powder can be active or as long as 5 days after being released.
• Take a cold shower for at least 20 minutes to prevent the chemicals from irritating your skin any further. Do you best not to breathe in more tear gas during the shower, and keep your eyes closed. Wash your hair especially well.
• If you're still having symptoms 30 minutes or so after getting all the agents off, are having eye or lung issues, or are at all concerned about your exposure, seek medical care immediately.
• If your rights have been violated, take photos of any injuries and seek medical treatment for them right away. Be sure to get a copy of all related medical records.
Additional information provided by Physicians for Human Rights can be found at: