You are probably familiar with some of the stories that have made the news in recent years regarding tear gas. “Tear gas works by releasing an inhalant that infiltrates the mucous membranes,” according to Andrew Whitmarsh, AfterMath’s Operations Safety and Compliance Manager in Aurora, IL. But what exactly is it? What is it made of?
To start, tear gas is not actually a gas at all. In fact, the active chemicals found in tear gas – most commonly synthetic organic halogen compounds – are solid at room temperature. Common compounds found in tear gas include chlorobenzalmalononitrile (CS), chloroacetophenone (CN), both of which are known as mace.
Although tear gas is considered a non-lethal chemical weapon, the immediate effects can be damaging. Those who have been tear gassed often feel a burning sensation on their skin and face, experience difficulty breathing, and have a hard time seeing through the large cloud of gas.
If you have been exposed to tear gas:
- Get out of there! As quickly and calmly as you can, remove yourself from the gas-filled area.
- Face the wind. Fresh air will help blow excess tear gas powder off of you and will prevent it from blowing back into your mouth or eyes.
- Rinse your eyes with cold water. While rinsing your eyes from the inner to the outer corner, avoid allowing the contaminated water to run onto your skin or clothes.
- Rinse your clothing and body with cold water. DO NOT use hot water. Using hot water will open your pores and allow the chemicals to seep further in, resulting in even more skin irritation. DO NOT take a bath – as you will only soak yourself in the chemicals.
Neutralizing a Tear Gassed Scene Should Be Left to Professionals
While the physical effects of tear gas exposure are temporary, the effects the gas has on the scene can be lasting if not properly neutralized.
Unfortunately, because of the complex nature of removing tear gas residue and implementing a neutralizer process, there is no such thing as an easy tear gas remediation job. The removal of teargas is challenging, dangerous and messy. An inexperienced cleanup crew can leave you vulnerable to serious health hazards, potentially causing permanent damage to the heart and liver. Aftermath understands and is trained in complex situations involving tear gas and trauma and our trusted experts and services are routinely referred by law enforcement professionals.