Saturday, January 29, 2011

Report: Egyptian police using expired U.S. tear gas

03:48 PM

A cloud of tear gas englufed a demonstrator in central Cairo earlier today.
By Marco Longari, AFP/Getty Images
Egyptian police have used expired, U.S.-made tear gas on demonstrators in Cairo, the Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper reports.

It's not clear how that might affect people differently from unexpired gas. The paper writes: "Some experts contend that expired tear gas may lead to more dangerous health effects -- than its non-expired counterpart -- for people heavily exposed to it." It offers no specifics or sources, however.

Reporters collected canisters that stated they were made in 2003 and expired after five years, or 2008. The paper did not name the U.S. manufacturer.

Tear gas is a general term covering more than a dozen chemicals that irritate the eyes, mouth, throat, lungs and skin. The effects are usually temporary, up to an hour, although long-term exposure to large amounts in confined areas can damage eyes or cause severe breathing problems, especially for people with asthma. One protester with respiratory problems died Tuesday in Suez after inhaling tear gas.

Israeli troops reportedly have been using expired, U.S.-made gas on Palestinians in East Jerusalem. A canister recovered during clashes Jan. 21 in Silwan indicates it was made in 2001 and expired in 2006, according to Blog from Middle East.

BFME writes: "The use of expired tear gas has been warned against by doctors, who say that tear gas when expired turns toxic, and far more dangerous to humans and other organisms." Again, no specifics or sources for those claims.

The effectiveness of tear gas does degrade over time when exposed to air.

On Deadline is seeking expert comment on the effects of expired tear gas and will update accordingly.


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