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Ban Tear Gas


In our conversations about the disaster that is American policing, one thing that is not coming up as often as it should is that the police should not be allowed to use tear gas. There are lots of reasons for this. It is not some sort of harmless agent. It might not be lethal, but it can be lethal, including people getting whacked in the head with the cans. Moreover, what are its health effects? The situation in Portland is ridiculous, with terrible police AND anarchists raising hell in downtown for more than a year. Only in Portland would two groups of white people battle in the streets over what began as part of the Black freedom struggle. Anyway, there’s been enough tear gas sprayed there to supply real knowledge about its medical effects. And it doesn’t look good:

At some point last summer, there were just too many reports of protesters who had experienced abnormal menstrual cycles after being exposed to tear gas for Britta Torgrimson-Ojerio, a nurse researcher at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, to dismiss them as coincidence.

A preschool teacher told Oregon Public Broadasting that if she inhaled a significant amount of gas at night, she’d get her period the next morning. Other Portland residents shared stories of periods that lasted for weeks and of unusual spotting. Transgender men described sudden periods that defied hormones that had kept menstruation at bay for months or years.

Dr. Torgrimson-Ojerio decided she would try to figure out whether these anecdotes were outliers or representative of a more common phenomenon. She surveyed around 2,200 adults who said they had been exposed to tear gas in Portland last summer. In a study published this week in the journal BMC Public Health, she reported that 899 of them — more than 54 percent of the respondents who potentially menstruate — said they had experienced abnormal menstrual cycles.

“Even though we cannot say anything scientifically definitive about these chemical agents and a causal relationship to menstrual irregularities,” Dr. Torgrimson-Ojerio said, “we can definitively say that in our study most people who had menstrual cycles or a uterus reported menstrual irregularities after reporting exposure to tear gas.”

Since commenters on this site freak out at the idea of abolishing the police, how about taking away all the ways that they hurt people. No guns, no tear gas, no lots of things.

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