A group of lawmakers has committed to researching the health effects of tear gas after police departments around the country used it on protesters last summer. According to the Independent, two congressional committees already wrote to three tear gas manufacturers requesting safety information on the chemical weapon as part of its investigation.
“The United States has agreed not to use tear gas in war,” US Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Cori Bush, Jamie Raskin, and Raja Krishnamoorthi, all Democrats, wrote in their letters to the manufacturers and several federal agencies. “However, tear gas is frequently used in this country by law enforcement as a ‘riot control agent.’”
“Given this domestic use, we would have expected an analysis demonstrating that tear gas producers are safe to use on humans, but we have not seen this,” they added.
The lawmakers also noted how the tear gas fired at protesters last summer may have worsened coronavirus symptoms or caused significant, long-term damage to the lungs, while also citing the racial disparities of COVID-19’s impact. An analysis by The New York Times found that at least 100 police departments and law enforcement agencies deployed the gas on demonstrators last summer. Over 1,000 medical professionals signed a letter at the time, calling for police to stop using the chemical amid surges in new cases and worsening death rates.
“These products have routinely been deployed on nonviolent protesters exercising their First Amendments rights,” the lawmakers wrote. “People should not have to worry that if they attend a nonviolent protest, are in the vicinity of law enforcement action, or are medical workers assisting injured individuals, they may be exposed to poison with unknown effects.”
Lawmakers gave the manufacturers until June 24 to send the requested information.