Yesterday it emerged that a pregnant woman who had been sprayed with pepper spray at a demonstration has lost her baby. This is a shocking claim but it isn’t surprising when you consider the toxicity of pepper spray and the fact that it is banned for use in warfare under Article I.5 of the Chemical Weapons Convention (signed by the US, the UK and almost every other country on the planet).Police “pepper spray” is six hundred and sixty two times more powerful than jalapeño pepper and many hundreds of times stronger than the cans available to ordinary Americans.
There is no debate that being sprayed with pepper spray is extremely dangerous but few know that it is known to cause potentially lethal respiratory failure, especially for asthma sufferers. Most worryingly, the least informed appear to be the US police officers who are prepared to nonchalantly spray it directly in to the faces of peaceful protesters.
Even more worrying is the complete lack of interest by the authorities in the lethal impact that pepper spray has on individuals who have taken stimulants such as cocaine and amphetamines. The active ingredient in pepper spray, capsaicin potentates the toxicity of cocaine astronomically, making cocaine and pepper spray a lethal combination. In the two years following California’s 1992 adoption of capsaicin based pepper spray nineteen of the twenty-six deaths caused by pepper spay also involved the use of stimulants like cocaine (9 involved methamphetamine, 6 cocaine, 3 methamphetamine plus cocaine, and 1 pseudoephedrine), 79% of those deaths occured within one hour (Mendelson et al, 2009). This research is supported by animal research in which capsaicin pushed mortality levels through the roof in rats administered with cocaine (Mendelson et al, 2009).
“The lethal effects of capsaicin administered with cocaine (both compounds administered intraperitoneally) were assessed in 14 groups of 20–40 male mice. capsaicin at 10 mg/kg increased the lethality of cocaine in mice dosed at 60 mg/kg from 13% to 53% (P < 0.01) and for cocaine at 75 mg/kg from 53% to 90% (P < 0.001).” (Mendelson et al, 2009)
Footnote: If you think this is a situation that is unlikely to affect you because you aren’t the sort of person to confront a police officer you should take a look at the “crowd management” pepper spray now being developed by a subsidary of BAE and the implementation of pepper spray for crowd management already occurring across the on US a grand scale.
Mendelson, J., Tolliver, B., Delucchi, K., Baggott, M., Flower, K., Harris, C., Galloway, G., & Berger, P. (2009). Capsaicin, an active ingredient in pepper sprays, increases the lethality of cocaine Forensic Toxicology, 28 (1), 33-37 DOI: 10.1007/s11419-009-0079-9Follow Simon on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, RSS, or join the mailing list.
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