Doctors Say Tear Gas Can Help Spread Coronavirus

Jim Taylor
June 03, 2020 - 12:09 pm

    Over 1,000 doctors, healthcare workers and public health experts have signed a petition asking police to stop using tear gas on protestors.

    Nationwide demonstrations have been ongoing for over a week after George Floyd died while in police custody in Minneapolis. Video shows one officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for several minutes while he repeatedly says he can not breathe and begged for relief. 

    Police have clashed with protestors across the country including at demonstrations in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Santa Rosa and Walnut Creek, using tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse crowds.

    Now a petition, created by Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease expert at UCSF, is calling on public health experts to continue their fight against COVID-19 while supporting the anti-racist demonstrations, especially because black communities have been hit harder by the pandemic.

    Among the demands listed on the petition, which has been signed 1,228 times,  is a call for police to stop using tear gas because it may accelerate infection of the virus.

    Tear gas irritates the respiratory system and often causes people to cough or wheeze and spread more droplets.

    “The more droplets that are expelled from a person’s respiratory tract the more - the greater number of chances that those droplets could go on to land on someone in someone else’s respiratory tract and lead to infection,” says UCSF Dr. Ayesha Appa, who has signed the petition.

    And exposure to tear gas can affect someone’s ability to fight off the virus and lead to more serious cases.

    “Any irritant that the lungs are exposed to are certainly can cause inflammation, which can theoretically worsen someone’s experience of COVID-19,” says Dr. Appa.

    The CDC says prolonged exposure to tear gas can have serious ramifications on a person’s respiratory tract.