When a protest turns into a riot, law enforcement agencies are often forced to use tear gas to disperse the crowds. Sometimes referred to as lachrymatory agent, the use of the chemical weapon in demonstrations has been condemned by human rights organizations. However, it remains the go-to riot control agent in many countries. Everyone knows that tear gas makes your eyes watery while causing sneezing and difficulty breathing. However, there are more facts about the riot control agent that you probably don’t know. Here are some of them.

1. Tear Gas is Not a Gas

The most common misconception about tear gas is that it’s a form of gas; it’s not! Instead, it’s a pressurized chemical powder packaged in grenades, canisters, or sprays and turns into a mist when deployed.

2. It is Possible to Build Resistance to Tear Gas

Majority of the population is extremely sensitive to tear gas. However, there are a few veterans, such as army troops, who have built up a degree of tolerance to the chemicals in tear gas. Also, people living in areas that experience frequent riots can build up a tolerance to the chemicals.

This is the same mechanism that applies to being tolerant of spicy food. Medical experts are convinced genetics can also contribute to the phenomenon. For instance, people of East Asian descent are naturally tolerant of tear gas.

3. The US Presidential State Car has a Tear Gas Cannon

Popularly known as the Beast, the United States Presidential State Car has many safety features, including a tear gas dispenser. It is used to disperse crowds that may forcefully want to come closer to the president’s car.

4. Loukanikos, A Famous Riot Greek Dog, Died Due to Teargas Ingestion

During the height of the 2011 financial riots in Greece, Loukanikos, a ginger mongrel, demonstrated alongside other protesters. While confronting the police in the streets of Athens, Loukanikos was teargassed, too. Unfortunately, this led to his untimely death when he was just ten years old.

5. Tear Gas Caused One of the Worst Football/Soccer Stadium Disasters

On May 24, 1964, Peruvian fans invaded the Estadio Nacional when a referee made an unfavorable decision during their match with Argentina. This forced the authorities to shoot tear gas canisters in the air, leading to a mass exodus from the stadium. Three hundred twenty-eight people died, and more were injured.

6. The Geneva Protocol of 1925 Prohibited the Use of Tear Gas

A few years after its invention, the Geneva Protocol of 1925 prohibited the military from using asphyxiating gas and other gasses, which included tear gas. However, law enforcement officers continue to use the chemical weapon to disperse riots about a century later.

7. Tear Gas was “Normal” in the Beatles Earlier Concerts

When performing, the Beatles, an English rock band formed in Liverpool in 1960, had to deal with violent fans who would enjoy throwing tear gas into the crowd. Brawls and all manners of chaos were very common amongst Beatles fans.

This became so rampant that the band had to learn how to play through a haze of tear gas. George Harrison, a musician and songwriter from the band, narrates how once, when they were playing “Hully Gully,” they had to stop because there was too much tear gas.

8. Police Had to Use Tear Gas to Stop a Snowball Fight at the Pasadena Junior College

While snowball fights are very common during winter, things got out of hand when the students of Pasadena Junior College escalated their fight into a full riot in 1932. It got so bad that the police had to use tear gas canisters and water cannons to disperse the crowds.

9. Makeup Can Trap Tear Gas on the Skin

Veteran protesters know that makeup is a big no when attending a demonstration. This is because oil-based makeup can trap tear gas chemicals on the skin, thus prolonging its effects.

10. It’s Healthier to Walk Instead of Running through a Tear Gas Mist

When tear gas is launched at a crowd, most people prefer to run so that they can quickly evade that area. However, running isn’t always the best solution because it causes you to breathe more, leading to excessive inhalation of the chemicals. Walking is much healthier since it minimizes the amount of tear gas inhaled.

11. It Is Not Recommended to Touch the Eyes If Exposed to Tear Gas

Rubbing the eyes after exposure to tear gas causes more harm than good; it introduces more chemicals into the area. The best solution is to flush the eyes with running water without touching them. A cold shower afterward can also ease the symptoms of tear gas exposure.

12. Tear Gas Can Increase Blood Pressure

People living with hypertension should avoid riots because tear gas can increase blood pressure or heart rate. This is risky because elevated heart rates can cause cardiac arrest and death. Also, individuals suffering from respiratory illnesses should avoid tear gas by all means possible.

13. Tear Gas Containing Methylene Chloride was Used in the Seattle 1999 Protests

One of the discoveries made during the infamous Seattle gassings was the use of tear gas containing methylene chloride, which is categorized as an organochloride and is highly toxic. Victims of the protests, which included medics, experienced heavy cramping, late periods, and a miscarriage.

14. Effects of Tear Gas Disappear 30 Minutes after Leaving the Area

In most people, the effects of tear gas often disappear within 30 minutes of leaving the affected area. Also, the effects kick in at least 20 seconds after exposure. This depends on the chemicals used in that particular set of tear gas canisters.

15. The Impact from a Tear Gas Canister Can Be Deadly

Apart from irritating your eyes, nose, and mouth, tear gas canisters can also cause severe damage due to impact. A typical tear gas gun has a muzzle velocity of around 75m/s. If standing at close range, the impact from a tear gas gun can be deadly depending on the body part it hits.

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Last Update: July 6, 2024