George Floyd Protests: Tear Gas Use by Police Can Worsen Coronavirus Outbreak, Say Experts

The use of tear gas canisters by the US police has gone up amid the protests, but experts are wary of its impact on the pandemic.

The death of 46-year-old George Floyd in Minnesota triggered massive protest over the decades-old issue of racism in the U.S. After the death of the African American on the Memorial Day, mass protest movements emerged all over the country.

Meanwhile, U.S. police officers were caught in several videos, deploying tear gas canisters against the demonstrators, some of whom ended up losing eyesight. Besides causing injuries, the tear gas deployment could create conditions that would worsen the Coronavirus pandemic in the country, warns health experts.

Deploying Tear Gas Canisters

Experts claim that tear gas could raise the risk of COVID-19 infection in two ways. First, it is an irritant that triggers cough, and hence it could lead an infected individual to emit more droplets and transmit the SARS-CoV-2 to more people. Secondly, the gas could damage the throat and lungs which could make those affected people vulnerable to get infected with a respiratory disease live COVID-19.

As per Business Insider, Dr. Howie Mell, an emergency physician practicing near St. Louis, said: "We're using an agent that increases mucus production, that causes your eyes to water, your nose to run. The mucus produced in your nose is known to be a reservoir for the virus."

Effect of Tear Gas on Humans

Philadelphia tear gas incident Twitter

It should be noted that tear gas, which is banned in international warfare, causes people to experience burning in the eyes, nose, throat, lungs, and skin. The chemical agent of the gas is a solid, white powder that can be aerosolized when mixed with a solvent, and if it combines with water, sweat, and oils in human skin, it can result in a painful acidic liquid.

Earlier, USA Today reported that as per Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician in New York City, the gas could also be considered as a nerve agent because it can activate specific pain in affected areas on the human body.

There are a few factors which need to be considered in terms of understanding the severity of symptoms after exposure to such chemical component. It includes whether people are in an enclosed space or open space when exposed to the gas, how much tear gas was used, how close they are to the gas when it was released, and whether they have underlying health issues like asthma.

However, as per the experts, the immediate effect of the gas exposure will cause the release of bodily fluids such as the watery nose, tears on eyes, and cough, which can transmit Coronavirus particles.

It should be mentioned that the SARS-CoV-2 travels between people in microscopic droplets of saliva and mucus that spread three to five feet, revealed early findings. If a COVID-19 patient sneezes, coughs or eats within that distance of someone who doesn't have the disease, the particles could land on them. If the particle somehow ends up entering the healthy person's eyes, nose, or mouth the person can become infected by the deadly virus.

Related topics : Coronavirus