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Exactly How Does Pepper Spray Cause Harm?

pepper spray

(Lauri Rantala/Flickr)

This video of UC Davis campus police dousing protesters with pepper spray has close to two million views on YouTube and counting. UC Davis student David Busco was one of the students sprayed that day, saying the pain felt like “thousands of pieces of glass shooting into your eyes.”

Busco says the pepper spray was all over his face and mouth, meaning he could not avoid inhaling it, unless he stopped breathing. Concerned students poured bottled water over him, but this only worsened the problem by further spreading the pepper spray around his face and body. Busco says friends soon carried him to the nearest house and, after a quick Google search about pepper spray removal, washed him with dishwasher soap in the shower.

Pepper spray is legal for use in most states by anyone over age eighteen who is not a convicted felon. It is frequently being used during Occupy protests nationwide. We’re told it hurts (it look likes it hurts), but what exactly are the health effects? And what’s the best way to treat it?

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