Thursday, 26 March 2009

What is TEAR GAS?

I will probably be covering the happenings in Bukit Selambau with a fellow Citizen Journalist this weekend and with the FRUs frequently using tear gas and water cannon on the public, I thought I should prepare myself and share some knowledge about tear gas with you, well, you'll never know, just in case.

Tear gas is used both by the police for crowd control, and by individuals for self defense. According to experts there are 
three kinds of tear gas a consumer can buy:
  • CS (chlorobenzylidenemalononitrile)
  • CN (chloroacetophenone) - often sold as Mace
  • Pepper spray - made from chili peppers mixed with a vehicle like corn oil
CS is stronger than CN but wears off more quickly.

Tear gas that you hear about on the news, in the form of CN or CS, is often used by law enforcement when they are faced with a combative crowd. The tear gas is launched in the form of grenades or aerosol can so that the liquid becomes an aerosol. Both CN and CS are irritants -- they irritate mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, mouth and lungs, and cause tearing, sneezing, coughing, etc.

Pepper spray is an inflammatory agent that causes inflammation in the eyes, nose and mouth. Its effect is more debilitating, but you have to hit someone with it directly for it to be effective. This makes it more useful for self-defense against an individual. It is also useful against attacking dogs and bears.

(Courtesy of

How They Affect You:

Both tear gas and pepper spray are skin irritants, causing burning pain and excess drainage from eyes, nose, mouth and breathing passages. Pepper spray is more popular with authorities as an agent of control because of its immediate pain-causing qualities. It is harder to remove from the skin and has the capacity to cause first degree burns.

If you are exposed to either, you may experience:

  • stinging, burning in your eyes, nose, mouth and skin

  • excessive tearing, causing your vision to blur

  • runny nose

  • increased salivation

  • coughing and difficulty breathing

  • disorientation, confusion and sometimes panic 

  • intense anger from pepper spray exposure is a common response; this can be useful if you are prepared for it and are able to focus it towards recovery and returning to the action.

The good news is that this is temporary.

Discomfort from tear gas usually disappears after 5-30 minutes, while the worst pepper spray discomfort may take 20 minutes to 2 hours to subside. The effects of both diminish sooner with treatment. Because pepper spray penetrates to the nerve endings, its effects may last for hours after removal from the skin.

There are many myths about treatment and prevention. Much of this misinformation is potentially dangerous. Some of it, if applied, could greatly increase or prolong a person's reaction to exposure, or at the very least provide a false sense of security.

(Courtesy of

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