Report: Tear Gas May Elevate Risk Of COVID Spreading Through Protests

Police deploy tear gas at George Floyd protest in Fort Lauderdale.Screengrab / Miami Herald / YouTube


Tear gas can cause lung damage that makes people more susceptible to getting respiratory illnesses.

The New York Times reports that use of tear gas amid nationwide protests against the murder of George Floyd could increase the risk of coronavirus spreading through the demonstrations, based on studies showing tear gas effects on the lungs.

  • Along with the painful immediate effects of tear gas, which can cause watering eyes and burning throats, lung damage also is a potential effect.

  • The lung damage can make people more susceptible to getting respiratory illnesses, according to the report.

  • The Times noted that tear gas “can also incite coughing, which can further spread the virus from an infected person.”

  • Research by the U.S. Army in 2012 “looked at the impacts of exposure that thousands of Army recruits had to the common riot-control agent known as CS gas or tear gas” and found “that the personnel in a basic training cohort had a substantially high risk of being found to have an acute respiratory illness in the days after exposure than the days before.”

  • The Times also reported that “A study in Turkey examining the long-term effects of tear gas found that people who had been exposed had a higher risk for chronic bronchitis.”

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also has “said that prolonged exposure to riot-control agents may lead to long-term effects to eyes and breathing problems such as asthma.”

Sven-Eric Jordt, a researcher at Duke University who has studied the effects of tear gas agents, said he had been shocked to watch how much the authorities had turned to the control method in recent days.

“I’m really concerned that this might catalyze a new wave of Covid-19,” Mr. Jordt said. The virus has been linked to more than 106,000 deaths in the United States.

Read the full report.


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