Commentary By Ron Beasley
Jennifer Fox a 19 year old Seattle woman had a miscarriage after she claims the police hit her in the stomach and gave her a shot of pepper spray.
�I was standing in the middle of the crowd when the police started moving in,� Fox recalled. �I was screaming, �I am pregnant, I am pregnant. Let me through. I am trying to get out.��
She claimed that police hit her in the stomach twice before pepper spraying her. One officer struck her with his foot and another pushed his bicycle into her. It wasn�t clear if either of those incidents were intentional.
�Right before I turned, both cops lifted their pepper spray and sprayed me. My eyes puffed up and my eyes swelled shut,� Fox said.
While there is evidence that she was shot with pepper spray there is little evidence of the physical abbuse she claims.
But this brings up another issue, the myth that pepper spray is safe, - pepper spray is dangerous and can be fatal.
As the chart makes clear, commercial grade pepper spray leaves even the most painful of natural peppers (the Himalayan ghost pepper) far behind. It�s listed at between 2 million and 5.3 million Scoville units. The lower number refers to the kind of pepper spray that you and I might be able to purchase for self-protective uses. And the higher number? It�s the kind of spray that police use, the super-high dose given in the orange-colored spray used at UC-Davis.
The reason pepper-spray ends up on the Scoville chart is that � you probably guessed this - it�s literally derived from pepper chemistry, the compounds that make habaneros so much more formidable than the comparatively wimpy bells. Those compounds are called capsaicins and � in fact � pepper spray is more formally called Oleoresin Capsicum or OC Spray.
And yes it's dangerous stuff.
My own purpose here is to focus on the dangers of a high level of capsaicin exposure. But as pointed out in the 2004 paper, Health Hazards of Pepper Spray, written by health researchers at the University of North Carolina and Duke University, the sprays contain other risky materials:
Depending on brand, an OC spray may contain water, alcohols, or organic solvents as liquid carriers; and nitrogen, carbon dioxide, or halogenated hydrocarbons (such as Freon, tetrachloroethylene, and methylene chloride) as propellants to discharge the canister contents.(3) Inhalation of high doses of some of these chemicals can produce adverse cardiac, respiratory, and neurologic effects, including arrhythmias and sudden death.
We have seen the police spraying it into protestors mouths:
The more worrisome effects have to do with inhalation � and by some reports, California university police officers deliberately put OC spray down protesters throats. Capsaicins inflame the airways, causing swelling and restriction. And this means that pepper sprays pose a genuine risk to people with asthma and other respiratory conditions.
The death of a Bronx man who suffered a fatal asthma attack after cops pepper-sprayed him has been ruled a homicide by the city medical examiner.
An autopsy found that Kemp Yarborough cause of death was by�acute bronchial asthma attack during a physical altercation including pepper spray,� the city medical examiner told the New York Daily News.