CAIRO, Dec 18, 2011 (IPS) - Activists across the Middle East are reporting a mysterious toxin, possibly a banned nerve agent, in the thick clouds of tear gas used by security forces to suppress anti-government protests in recent months.
"I felt weak and dizzy for several days, and my hands wouldn’t stop shaking," recalls Mahmoud Hassan, an Egyptian marketing executive who was hospitalised last month after inhaling tear gas during a protest against military rule in Cairo. The gas used against protesters was many times stronger than that used by security forces during the 18-day uprising that toppled Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak in February, he insists.
"This wasn’t tear gas, it was something else," says Hassan. "It burned the skin and lungs, and we all fell to the ground shaking uncontrollably."
A similar gas is suspected of causing the deaths of at least eight civilians in Bahrain since February. In Yemen, doctors reported that anti-government protesters exposed to what appeared to be tear gas arrived at field hospitals paralysed, unconscious, or in convulsions. Routine treatments for tear gas exposure had no effect.
"We are seeing symptoms in the patient’s nerves, not in their respiratory systems. I’m 90 percent sure it’s nerve gas and not tear gas that was used," Dr. Sami Zaid, a physician at the Science and Technology Hospital in Sanaa, said in March.Read the rest at IPS
Deadly Gas Enters the Arab Spring
By Cam McGrath
Maybe not nerve gas but overexposure to tear gas.
More likely, [Kamran Loghman, former president of Zarc International, a California-based manufacturer of non-lethal chemical sprays] suggests, the observed symptoms are the result of overexposure. Since the Arab Spring, security forces have stepped up the use of tear gas to counter protesters’ growing tolerance to the chemical irritant – whether due to repeated exposure or physical means such as gas masks and goggles. Videos show riot police saturating demonstrations with tear gas, often in confined spaces.
The larger doses of tear gas could push an individual’s exposure well beyond the "intolerable concentration" (IC), the mount required to incapacitate them. While the margin between the concentration giving intolerable effect and that which may cause serious injury is high, studies have shown that with prolonged or intense exposure the human body metabolises CS gas into deadly cyanide.Chemical agents, including tear gas, are prohibited for use in war by the Chemical Weapons Convention, but they not prohibited for domestic use. Makes sense, right?
Why Isn't Tear Gas Illegal? It's a chemical weapon, isn't it?
By Brian Palmer at Slate