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The Reflection

Should tear gas be banned?

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We hear about tear gas on the news concerning protests, riots and warfare, but where does it come from? What does it really do to the human body? And the final question, should it even be legal?

Tear gas is not singular chemical let alone a gas. Tear gas is made up of a few lachrymatory agents (compounds that cause the secretion of tears) that are actually solids at room temperature. The only reason why tear gas becomes a gas is the lachrymatory agents getting mixed with a liquid to be used.

This past November the United States border patrol used 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile on a caravan on Honduran immigrants seeking refuge.  

Tear gas, and plastic pellet gunshot used by Venezuela’s National Police against a protest in Altamira, Caracas. The image shows distressed students who were peacefully in front of police line at the time of the action. The situation calmed when the majority of protesters managed to convince those throwing rocks to stop. This allowed the peaceful protesters to approach the police. Suddenly a rock thrown from behind the group near the police hit the riot shields and the pictured police action ensued. Photo courtesy of Andres E. Azpurua

This 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile is the only legal tear gas that can be used in the U.S. for riot control, according to the Washington Post. It is also the key component used for making CS tear gas (a gas commonly used in Turkey and the Middle East). This 2-C was discovered by two Americans named Ben Corson and Roger Stoughton, who were working at Middlebury College in 1928 according to World of Chemicals.

So what are the effects of 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile? Tear gas starts off by causing pain to anywhere it touches, including eyes, skin, lungs and mouth. This stage is then followed by tearing, choking and a flow of mucus. The third stage includes coughing and nausea that turns to vomiting.

Tear gas directly activates your body’s pain receptors. Its only purpose is to repel crowds with a large dose of instant misery. The gas does this by activating your TRPA1, a section of your pain receptors that the U.S. tear gas targets.

The U.S.’s agent contains chlorine compounds as well as 2-C to help blow the particles into the air, allowing the chemical to react with an individual’s bio-molecules and proteins. These particular agents are rarely lethal; however, their canisters have been known to cause head or body injuries and become a hazard in confined spaces.

Children are at a high risk for injuries because the closer to the ground you are, the higher concentration of the gas, making it more potent. Children also have smaller lungs that are unable to handle as much gas as an adult. And there is no definite answer for the long term effects of tear gas.

So is tear gas really worth it? No. The only thing that tear gas seems to do is create more chaos, confusion and destruction than it does help. In 2015 Egypt police threw tear gas in a soccer stadium to help control a mob of soccer fans. Twenty-five people died from being trampled over or from suffocation. An even worse scenario happened May 1986 in Germany when those getting tear gassed responded to the police by launching Molotov cocktails right back at them. And while I understand the need to control some protests and riots that have gotten out of hand, the use of tear gas just seems to increase the problem further.

Lainie Scott

This is my senior year at Gull Lake High school, and my second year apart of The Reflection staff.  This year I am the feature/entertainment editor, and I am looking forward to see where my writing can take me.


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