Infocus247 is a reflection of the knowledge that I have come across and discuss on a day to day. Being there are protest going on in Ferguson, having knowledge of how to protect yourself from tear gas is and will be useful to you as well as me if we face similar forces in our neighborhoods.
Tear gas is used both by the police for crowd control, and by individuals for self defense. According to”Tear Gas, With an Emphasis on Self Defense,“ 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 cansso 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.
Tear gas usually is delivered in the form a grenade, which is fitted onto the end of a gas gun and fired with a blank shotgun cartridge. Therefore, you may hear shots being fired when tear gas is used. Don’t assume you are being shot at. Do not panic. Look up when you hear the shot and avoid being in the path of the grenade. Tear gas grenades often explode in the air, delivering a metal container which will spew gas. This container will be hot, so do not touch it. Do not pick up an unexploded tear gas canister, since it could explode and cause injury.
The best defense against tear gas is a gas mask, but if you don’t have a mask there are still steps you can take to minimize damage from tear gas. If you think you might encounter tear gas you can soak a bandana or paper towel in lemon juice or cider vinegar and store it in a plastic baggie. You can breathe through the acidified cloth for several minutes, which should give you sufficient time to get upwind or reach higher ground. Goggles are a great thing to have. You can use tight-fitting swim goggles if chemical safety goggles aren’t available. Don’t wear contacts anywhere you might encounter tear gas. If you are wearing contact lenses, immediately remove them. Your contacts are a loss as is anything else you can’t wash. You can wear your clothes again after you wash them, but wash them separately that first time. If you don’t have goggles or any sort of mask, you can breathe the air inside your shirt, since there is less air circulation and therefore a lower concentration of the gas, but that is counterproductive once the fabric becomes saturated.