What is Pepper Spray?

Pepper spray was first used by law enforcement and correctional agencies in the United States, and is still used by many countries today. Violent behavior is an aerosol spray that helps to passivate people. This spray can also be used by those who want to defend themselves against attacks from humans or animals. Its use is sometimes controversial, and many deaths in detention have been observed after a police officer applied the spray to catch suspects.

A study conducted by the National Institute of Justice in North Carolina jurisdictions in 2003 showed that the number of police officers injured on duty decreased after the tear gas sprayed. Below, we examine what is in the ingredients of pepper spray, whether it is dangerous, and how to treat exposure to pepper spray.

Pepper Spray Content

In pepper spray, the ingredient that gives the spicy taste to the pepper is used in pepper spray to irritate the eyes. Pepper spray is a lacriative agent, meaning it stimulates the eyes to produce tears. It is the main ingredient in an oil pepper spray known as oleoresin capsicum. Capsaicin is an inflammatory agent in oil. This is the same chemical that adds characteristic heat to hot peppers. However, a much higher concentration of capsaicin is found in chili medicine.

The temperature of a pepper is 0 on the Scoville Temperature Units scale used to measure the temperature of peppers. A jalapeño pepper scores between 2500 and 5,000 points on the same scale. However, pepper spray temperatures range from 2 million units in commercial pepper sprays marketed for defensive use to 5.3 million Scoville units for spraying in police spray. This same ingredient is also the basis for bear spray, which reduces attacks during human encounters with bears. However, the concentration of capsaicin in bear spray is only 1 to 2 percent. Pepper sprays used in law enforcement are reported to have a capsaicin content of between 10 and 30 percent.

As a result, its spread is often controversial, especially when civilian protesters used tear gas like the 2011 Occupy Wall Street protests. Authorities classify pepper spray as a means of control, and Article I.5 of the Chemical Weapons Convention. article prohibits its use in war.

Physical Effects

When a person comes into contact with pepper spray, their eyes close immediately and a stinging or burning sensation is experienced. Temporary blindness and eye pain will follow. Its effects last between 30 and 45 minutes depending on how strong the spray solution is.

Pepper spray can also cause:

  • Burning in the throat
  • Grunt
  • Dry cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Burping
  • Inability to breathe or speak
  • In rare cases, it may cause cyanosis, a bluish discoloration of the skin that indicates a lack of blood flow and oxygen. Apnea and respiratory arrest may also occur.

According to a study conducted in 1999, it was reported that inhaling pepper spray can be an acute experience and cause hypertension or a sudden rise in blood pressure.


Emergency medical technicians carry wipes and solutions that treat pepper spray symptoms. People who come into contact with pepper spray should take the following steps to alleviate their burning symptoms:

• Since the spray is oil-based, people who come into contact with their skin are recommended not to touch the affected area. Touching the solution can easily spread to other parts of the body.

• If pepper spray gets into the eyes, a quick wink can help flush it out.

• Washing with hand soap, shampoo or dishwashing liquid can remove the oil from the skin, and then the area should be rinsed with water. Also, baby shampoos can be helpful to wash off the spray from the eye area.

• Individuals exposed to pepper spray may instinctively want to wash the affected area with water. This can provide instant but short-lived relief. The oil does not mix with water at the molecular surface, so washing the skin with water alone will not remove the solution.


Since 1980, police have often used tear gas to suppress violent or non-cooperative behavior. When pepper spray hits the face, it temporarily blind the eye. This makes it easier for police officers to remove and arrest suspects from the scene. During the Occupation protests in 2011, the media started to scrutinize the use of tear gas spray by the police. Despite the emergence of videos showing police officers repeatedly spraying peaceful protesters over a long period of time, the rules stated that the spray should not be used on any person for more than a second.

The deployment of pepper spray by law enforcement officials may be controversial for other reasons. For example, research conducted by researchers at Harvard University in 2016 found that African-American people spraying pepper in the US were 25 percent more likely than white people.


Pepper spray is known as a non-lethal weapon or a weapon that cannot kill people. However, deaths occurred after the use of pepper spray. People exposed to pepper spray have a chance to experience asthma complications. In a 2003 Ministry of Justice report, tear gas spray directly contributed to the deaths of 2 people out of 63 incidents in which detainees died after using tear gas in their detention.

The report attributed pepper spray to the two causes of death, citing pre-existing asthma as a contributing factor. Other causes of death were found to be medication use, illness, positional asphyxia, or a combination. However, the same report was concluded as follows: “Inhaling pepper spray alone does not pose a significant risk of respiratory failure or suffocation, even with position restriction.”

Commercially available pepper sprays can also act as an effective deterrent during street attacks.

Pepper spray is an effective deterrent that can be dangerous when overused, and its main ingredient is capsaicin, an inflammatory agent that gives black pepper its spicy flavor. Pepper spray is commercially available for self-defense purposes, but police-issued sprays are much stronger. They are designed to respond to riots. It is controversial that people die of tear gas complications. However, studies have shown that direct spray inhalation does not cause respiratory damage or asphyxiation. The first thing a person should do when exposed to pepper spray is to reach a well-ventilated area with fresh air. He should also loosen all clothing around his neck, chest, or waist that could limit breathing. If wearing contact lenses, they should be removed and the face and hair washed with running water and non-abrasive soap for at least 15 minutes. However, eyes should never be rubbed as it may increase exposure to pepper spray.

It may feel burning and stinging for an hour after being exposed to the gas, so patience is required. However, if the pain is unbearable and lasts longer than an hour, and if the pepper spray has been swallowed or has difficulty breathing, medical attention should be sought.


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