Recent national events are particularly disturbing from a medical standpoint.

Peaceful protesters have been subjected to tear gas, pepper spray and flash-bang grenades. Tear gas, a weapon banned from chemical warfare since 1993, is an abortifacient. It causes miscarriages. It also causes lung, skin and eye injuries; individuals with chronic diseases are at high-risk for long-term complications. Respiratory effects, observed in residents of areas where tear gas is deployed, suggests that tear gas agents represent a persistent environmental health hazard.

Pepper spray is chemical grade weapon gas made from capsaicin; manufacturing of the spray is not regulated. Most law enforcement pepper sprays use between 1% to 2%, which is the same level of chemical used in bear repellent spray. Studies have found temporary blindness, carcinogenic effects, cardiovascular and pulmonary toxicity, as well as, in some cases, death related to exposure.

In Seattle, a flash-bang grenade hit a 20-year-old woman in the chest and caused her heart to stop. CPR was performed by volunteer medics.

Use of chemical gases and projectiles in peacefully protesting crowds is life-threatening and unacceptable.

Teri Brentnall, M.D., Seattle