PROTECTION AGAINST TEAR GAS AND PEPPER SPRAY, 101 The first thing to remember about exposure to these chemical weapons is that it is not the worst thing that could happen to you. The hype and fear surrounding them is enormous, but in reality, if you are careful and smart, you should survive it with little problem. This information is the result of conversations with experts, pepper spray trials done by the Black Cross Health Collective in Portland, Oregon, and our combined experiences of treating lots of people in various actions, including the WTO in Seattle, the IMF/WB in DC, and the actions against the electoral conventions in Philadelphia and Los Angeles. Unfortunately, we have no direct experience with these chemical weapons in Europe, so please be aware that this information is based on research from around the world, but experience only from the US. What They Are:Tear gas (also called CS, CN, or CX) and pepper spray (OC) are chemical compounds that are weapons designed to be used by the military and police to disperse crowds and subdue individuals. They are mucous membrane (the inside of your mouth and nose, among other places, are lined with mucous membranes) and skin irritants. They are mixed with solvents, and delivered through the use of propellants. Some of these solvents are registered with the US Environmental Protection Agency as causing cancer, birth defects and genetic mutations. In Seattle, one batch of tear gas contained methylene chloride, a highly toxic solvent which can cause mental confusion, headache, tingling of the limbs, rapid heartbeat, visual and auditory hallucinations, menstruation cycle disruption, spontaneous abortion, and varying effects on lungs and the digestive system. How They Are Deployed:Tear gas and pepper spray can be sprayed from small hand-held dispensers or large fire-extinguisher size tanks. Pepper spray also comes in plastic projectiles which are fired at the chest to knock the wind out of a person, who then takes a deep breath, of pepper from the burst projectile. Tear gas is most commonly deployed via canisters, which are fired into crowds, sometimes directly at people. It's important that you know not to pick up the canisters without gloves as they are extremely hot. Be aware that the time it takes you to throw it will allow you to be heavily exposed. 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 skinexcessive tearing, causing your vision to blurrunny noseincreased salivationcoughing and difficulty breathingdisorientation, 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. Prevention:For most healthy people, the effects of tear gas and pepper spray are temporary. However, for some people the effects can be long-lasting and life-threatening. People with the conditions listed below should be aware of these risks and may want to try and avoid exposure. Please be aware that in intense actions, police behavior can be unpredictable, and avoidance is not always possible. Conditions:Folks with respiratory diseases, such as asthma, emphysema, etc. risk exacerbation, or permanent damage if exposed.Vulnerable people such as infants, the elderly, and the immune compromised, risk intensified and possibly life-threatening responses.Anyone with chronic health conditions or those on medications that weaken the immune system, (ie: chemotherapy, Lupus, HIV, radiation, or long-term corticosteroids such as prednisone) risk exacerbation of illness, intensified response and possible delayed recovery.Women who are or could be pregnant, or who are trying to get pregnant, may be at risk of spontaneous abortion, or increased risk of birth defects. Nursing mothers risk passing toxins on to their infant.Folks with skin conditions (ie: severe acne, psoriasis, or eczema) and eye conditions (ie: conjunctivitis or uveitis) risk an intensified response. People wearing contact lenses may experience increased eye irritation and damage due to chemicals being trapped under the lenses. Protection:Avoid use of oils, lotions and detergents because they can trap the chemicals and thereby prolong exposure. Wash your clothes, your hair and your skin beforehand in a detergent-free soap (such as Dr.Bronner's or most eco-friendly products). We recommend using a water or alcohol-based sunscreen (rather than oil-based). If your choice is between oil-based or nothing, we advocate using the sunscreen. Getting pepper sprayed on top of a sunburn is not fun.We also recommend minimizing skin exposure by covering up as much as possible. This can also protect you from the sun, as can a big hat.Gas masks provide the best facial protection, if properly fitted and sealed. Alternatively, goggles (with shatter-proof lenses), respirators, even a wet bandana over the nose and mouth will help. How to deal:STAY CALM. Panicking increases the irritation. Breathe slowly and remember it is only temporary.If you see it coming or get a warning, put on protective gear, if able, try to move away or get upwind.Blow your nose, rinse your mouth, cough and spit. Try not to swallow.If you wear contacts, try to remove the lenses or get someone to remove them for you, with CLEAN, uncontaminated fingers.DO NOT RUB IT IN. RemediesWe have been doing trials with pepper spray to find good remedies and have found some things will definitely help minimize the discomfort. None of these are miracle cures; using these remedies will help people to feel better faster, but it will still take time. For the eyes and mouth: We recommend a solution of half liquid antacid (like Maalox) and half water. A spray bottle is ideal but a bottle that has a squirt cap works as well. Always irrigate from the inside corner of the eye towards the outside, with head tilted back and slightly towards the side being rinsed. It seems from our trials that it needs to get into the eye to help. This means that if the sprayed person says it's okay you should try to open their eye for them. They most likely won't be able/willing to open it themselves, and opening will cause a temporary increase in pain, but the solution does help. It works great as a mouth rinse too. For the skin: We recommend canola oil followed by alcohol. Carefully avoiding the eyes, vigorously wipe the skin that was exposed to the chemical with a rag or gauze sponge saturated with canola oil. Follow this immediately with a rubbing of alcohol. Remember that alcohol in the eyes hurts A LOT. Anyone whose eyes you get alcohol in will not be your friend. Secondary treatments can include: spitting, blowing your nose, coughing up mucous (you don't want to swallow these chemicals!), walking around with your arms outstretched, removing contaminated clothing, and taking a cool shower. In fact, it is essential to shower and wash your clothes (this time in real detergents--no eco-friendly stuff here) as soon as you are able. This shit is toxic, and will continually contaminate you and everyone around you until you get rid of it. Until then, try not to touch your eyes or your face, or other people, furniture, carpets etc. to avoid further contamination. Remember, it is only temporary, and we are extremely strong.