While tear gas is often used to halt riots and other protests, it isn’t nearly as safe as many people believe it to be. In fact, over 1,300 medical and public health professionals have petitioned to stop police from using respiratory irritants that make people prone to infections.
If you live or work near an area that recently has been tear-gassed, cleaning up needs to be a top priority. Read on to learn why this substance must be eliminated and how you can do so.
What Is Tear Gas?
Tear gas, sometimes known as ‘riot control agents,’ are substances used by law enforcement officials that temporarily render people unable to function. It does so by causing severe irritation to a person’s throat, lungs, mouth, eyes, and skin.
So, is tear gas illegal? It definitely is not. It’s mostly used by police.
Contrary to popular opinion, tear gas isn’t one single substance. There are many compounds that can make up tear gas. The most common ones are chloroacetophenone (CN) and chlorobenzylidenemalononitrile (CS).
However, there are many others, some of which are also substances that use fumes to disinfect an area in other situations. Breathing in these fumes is similar to inhaling bleach.
The majority of tear gas substances are solids when at room temperature. To disperse them, police mix them with liquid or gas dispersal agents.
Short and Long Term Effects
Because tear gas is a toxin, it has a plethora of ill effects on its victims.
Short term effects include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Chest tightness
- Choking sensations
- Wheezing and shortness of breath
- Running and swelling nose
- Burning, irritated mouth
- Difficulty swallowing
- Excessive coughing
- Burning, tearing, and redness in the eyes
- Blurred vision
- Burns and rashes on the skin
The following long term effects may also arise:
- Permanent blindness
- Burns on the skin
- Loss of limb use/amputations
- Lifelong brain trauma
- Respiratory failure (moderate to severe)
- Chemical burns to the throat and lungs
- Death as a result of the previous two points
Because of these effects, tear gas was previously used as an instrument of war. France and Germany used tear gas as an irritant in battle to render other soldiers unable to function. Needless to say, it isn’t something that you want to come into contact with.
This makes cleaning up a tear-gas-infected area a challenge.
How to Clean Tear Gas: A Step-by-Step Guide
Luckily, eliminating tear gas from an area is completely possible. Most common tear gasses can be cleaned with the same methods regardless of the specific compound.
However, if old and outdated compounds were used, heat cannot get near the affected area.
Do not try to figure out what compound was used. Focus on getting to safety instead.
Step I: Keep Yourself Immediately Safe
If you were part of the group that was tear-gassed, immediately remove the clothing that is now contaminated by the compound. Throw it away and get out of the affected area. Get somewhere where you can breathe fresh air outdoors.
Those who have preexisting respiratory conditions like asthma may need inhalers or bottled oxygen. Access this as soon as possible.
Wash any skin with soap and water. Flush your eyes with saline solution (or, when saline isn’t accessible, sterile water). Milk or milk of magnesia can also calm the burning sensation on the skin, but it isn’t going to help in the long term.
Head to an ER if you’re experiencing respiratory issues, blindness, or severe burning. You should seek professional medical attention.
Step II: Turn Off Air Circulation Systems
Sometimes tear gas will be released indoors or in enclosed outdoor areas. If you have an HVAC, heater, or other air circulation system on, turn it off. You need to do this immediately after taking care of yourself.
This is essential because these systems move air around the facility. The air molecules are contaminated with tear gas toxins and circulating them exposes more people. It also further contaminates the space.
Step III: Avoid Affected Areas
Whether or not you were part of the tear-gassing or are responsible for the property gassed, you need to completely avoid the area.
It can be tempting to try to go get objects from the space that the gas touched. Cell phones, wallets, and other items may have fallen from pockets. However, none of these are worth risking inhaling the substance.
Many people also want to clean the space on their own, pick up garbage, and eliminate debris. This is not a job for those who don’t have professional HAZMAT suits or expert training. Leave the area alone.
Step IV: Hire Professional Cleaners
Call professional tear gas cleaners as soon as possible to decontaminate your space. You cannot enter the affected area until this takes place.
These experts will put on a high-grade HAZMAT suit that protects the skin and ensures appropriate air filtration via a mask. Without this, you cannot prevent self-contamination (or recontamination, which poses an even higher risk).
Professionals will then remove all items from the affected area. Unfortunately, everything must be disposed of. People will not get their personal items back and furniture/carpeting will need replacement.
They then will spray and wipe the area with a hard surface cleaner. Rags and mops are the ideal tools for this- unlike brooms and brushes, they won’t stir up the gas and make it airborne again. Professionals will then repeat this process multiple times until the entire room is completely decontaminated.
Ensure Your Safety Today
Now that you know the effects of tear gas and how you can eliminate these risks, it’s time to get started. Check out our tear gas cleanup services and reach out to contract with us.
Our experts have the appropriate tools for cleaning up hazardous materials so you don’t need to worry about safety. We also are happy to answer any remaining questions that you have about eliminating tear gas. Since we’re committed to ensuring the safety of yourself and others around you, we look forward to hearing from you soon.