UPDATE: 15 April 2021
It’s fighting season again and there will be a need for Tear Gas First Aid! More experience with the pigs usage of chemical weapons banned by the Geneva Convention over the past year has led to the following updates from a comrade who is an experienced street medic and was kind enough to do the following writeup:
Eye flushes with clean water are the best response to tear gas and mace. Everything else you’ve heard: Baking soda, milk, Maalox/LAW, apple cider vinegar; all of it ranges from equally effective to ineffective and dangerous. Mace and tear gas employ oil based neurochemical irritants, generally Capsaicin, but not always. While they are slightly acidic, it is not the acidity which causes the irritation.
These chemicals interact with your nerve endings to give you a burning sensation, the same way menthol gives a cooling sensation. There is no burning or tissue damage occurring (as it would if it were really an acid burn), it is simply bamboozling your nerve endings into thinking there is an emergency and depending on what type of tissue, your body has different well intended reactions, but as many of us know all too well, really do not help. Skin gets a burning sensation, mucous membranes secrete fluid to try to wash out the irritant, airways constrict to keep the irritant from further contaminating. In short, any attempt to “neutralize” the “acid” of mace or tear gas will not and can not help.
For this reason, most street medics and medical experts agree that the best solution (ba-dum-tss) is simple, reliable, clean water for the eyes and, if a hose or plentiful water are available, soap and water for the skin. The reason eye flushes work is not the water neutralizing the irritant, but, at a microscopic level, the water washing away the bulk of the irritant, massively reducing the amount the body has to metabolize and thus reducing the recovery time.
There are many youtube videos demonstrating good technique for this. The key elements are:
1. clean water, generally from a sport cap water bottle you just opened (and haven’t been drinking from)
2. 2-3 aggressive flushes for each eye, from the bridge of the nose and out.
3. positioning the head and body such that the now contaminated water doesn’t run down the body, spreading the irritant.
Generally this is accomplished by the patient leaning forward and tilting their head toward the side being flushed so the water runs right off their face to the ground. It is important to remember to tell patients that this will not make them feel better, it will make them feel better sooner. It reduces the amount of irritant your body has to metabolize. A good water flush will get the majority of the irritant out. Soap and water on the skin would get a supermajority of it out, but even then there is still some left and people will still be hurting for a while.
Degree of contamination, different tolerance levels, and efficacy of flushes make it hard to put a number on the recovery time, but the difference is significant. Again, water is best because it is simple, accessible, and will not risk further harm.
Next we will talk about the shortcomings of the other proposed solutions starting with the most popular.
1. Liquid Antacid and Water (LAW/Maalox): The minority of street medics that are not on team water are almost always on team LAW. The theory is that a 50/50 mix of Maalox and water will neutralize the irritant. As we discussed this is not how it works. Additionally, LAW can cause harm. First, most will not purchase the “correct” Maalox which is free of irritants such as flavoring and alcohol and is very rare. Second, even the correct Maalox has particulates which can scratch the cornea. Third, this mixture will pain the patient’s face white and make them a target for law enforcement, as we saw most prominently in Ferguson.
2. Baking soda: Nothing to neutralize, has particulates.
3. Milk: There is a kernel of truth to milk. We drink milk to cool our mouths with spicy foods, i.e. non-weaponized concentrations of capsaicin and it is effective because the lipids (fats) in milk bind with the oil-based capsaicin and help wash it away. This is ineffective for weaponized concentrations because it is only slightly more effective than water at binding to the oil, but can be quite harmful compared to water. Best case scenario you have milk that is not spoiled from being in the sun all day, but still contains pus, bacteria, and other microorganisms you do not want in your eye (personally this doesn’t stop me from drinking it, but I dont want it in my eyes).
4. Apple cider soaked bandanas: The apple cider does not chemically interact in any meaningful way with the irritant and is basically the same as a water soaked bandana. While any barrier for keeping the bulk of the irritant away is good, people need to be cognizant of how ineffective it still is: you will still be incapacitated if exposed without a respirator and eye protection.
5. Onions: the idea is that you get your tears flowing early to help flush out the irritant. Ineffective. Remember: Being on the wrong end of a chemical weapon is traumatic and more and more common. As such, we want to believe there is an “antidote” we want to help our friends not to suffer. There is no such antidote to date and the best we can do is help people recover faster without risking further harm. The best way to do that is with clean water. Tell your friends. Science is on your side.
Please keep these updates in mind as you read the original post below:
I have a great community over in Facebook Birbland, and one of the comrades messaged me a couple of days ago with this vital information – I’m sorry it took me this long to get to it. It’s been a rough couple of days – I had to make the difficult decision to quit my political party, and I tendered my resignation on Monday. I wish my comrades there well and remain in solidarity with them, but I could not continue to remain a member of the party without a marred conscience, over things that I both witnessed and learned of regarding leadership and what I will only call performative proletarianism, and leave it at that.
Back to the rad community we’ve built over on the Comrade Birb page on Facebook! One of the members, a project manager at a decontamination company, messaged me with the following BADASS MUTHAFUCKA praxis!
I’m a project manager at a decontamination company. Over the weekend I became livid at the police brutality at the protests about police brutality
So I realized I have something to offer
I put these together today, then went out and bought supplies for six of them
This one is meant to be printed on both sides and affixed to one of the bags of supplies with safety pins, so that the team member can wear a sign indicating the service they’re providing
This one is treatment instructions for pepper spray and tear gas
The phone numbers at the bottom are specific to Miami
Here’s the Word document so people can replace them with local numbers
The baking soda solution should be in a spray bottle with 1 tablespoon baking soda for 8 oz of water
I used body wash bottles from the Dollar Tree because they press down, instead of squeeze
Also, use baby shampoo to make the soapy water so victims can keep their eyes open
It was a little under $60 for six kits, masks and paintballs not included
($18 for the mask, $24 for cartridges, two day shipping. It’s important they be pink/magenta and gray/black, they’re color coded. Extremely reusable, but you must store in an AIRTIGHT container while not in use – things can shake loose from the filter)
a small traffic cone for handling tear gas canisters directly – NO PVC, it will melt! You put the cone over the canister and dump water rapidly in through the top – the maneuver pioneered in the Hong Kong Uprisings
If exposed while wearing the mask: 1) wear gloves while handling (put gloves on before you put the mask on, and wear them until after it’s in a sealed container), and 2) wipe the mask down, especially the rubber, with an alcohol wipe or isopropyl alcohol. Acne wipes should work too in a pinch
Not pictured: bottled water, instructions/signage, mask, paintballs (because apparently that’s not a thing in south Florida)
The goggles are $5 each, everything else can be bought at a Dollar Tree except for maybe the baby shampoo
It’s rudimentary, but it’s something anyone can do, and it’s the best we’re capable of even in a professional setting, really, short of Sudecon wipes, which are hard to find
Tear gas is an acid, and baking soda makes the water in that bottle basic, so it neutralizes it somewhat
Pepper spray is an oil, same as Covid, so the only thing that can get it off is soapy water (surfactant)
It took me about an hour and a half, not including shopping, to make five
For the record, I’m offering no guarantees, and this is merely a strategy to minimize risk
Tear gas is a weapon of war developed for use against the Viet Cong
Brave novices should not take it upon themselves to approach tear gas canisters. The best strategy is to make your presence known at an event so that you can meet and treat victims immediately after exposure
I hope this helps someone
Thanks for the work you do
Thank YOU, comrade! This is a community service, especially during The George Floyd Uprising, for all of those warriors on the front lines of this Class War that is culminating with the Fall Of Capitalism. The Ruling Class has deployed its thug pigs against the Working Class, and we continue the long Struggle for Socialism. Please share this in your circles and see that this information gets to the front lines. Those who are unable to be present at events can show solidarity by purchasing supplies and assembling these kits to be given to those on the front lines.
If you read my earlier statement about leaving my party on Monday, and thought it meant I am no longer a Marxist-Leninist – to the contrary. I remain your comrade! I have new plans in the works: my comrade Cat, one of my scrumtrulescent moderators on the Facebook page and I are forming the Michigan Chapter of The New White Panther Party. More news on that in the coming days! In the meantime, you can read more about The NWPP here: