“From Washington to Los Angeles, the scene has become eerily mundane in the last week: The soft thud of a tear gas canister landing on pavement, followed by a billow of white smoke enveloping a throng of fleeing demonstrators.
On a scale not seen in decades, police across the United States have resorted to tear gas and other “riot control agents” to break up protests stemming from the death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police.
But if the immediate effects of a tear gas blast — such as choking, watering eyes and nausea — are well-known, the broader impact for thousands of people may be much harder to gauge, particularly in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Because tear gas damages respiratory airway linings, even healthy protesters who inhale it “are more prone to get the infection” caused by the viral disease, with African-Americans and other minorities especially vulnerable, Satya Achanta, an assistant professor of anesthesiology at Duke University, said in an interview this morning. Four years ago, Achanta was co-author of a scientific overview of tear gas's effects.”