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'Health impacts for those exposed' | House Oversight demands answers from tear gas manufacturers

The House Oversight Committee also wants DOJ, EPA, and HHS to increase oversight of tear gas usage.

WASHINGTON — Multiple House Oversight subcommittees sent letters to three companies it identified as tear gas manufacturers seeking safety answers.

Those companies are Safariland, Combined Systems Inc., and Pacem Defense LLC. House members also sent letters to three federal departments seeking additional controls on tear gas usage.

“These products have routinely been deployed on non-violent protestors exercising their First Amendment rights,” the House members wrote. “People should not have to worry that if they attend a non-violent protest, are in the vicinity of law enforcement action, or are medical workers assisting injured individuals, they may be exposed to poison with unknown effects.”

Studies have shown significant adverse health outcomes for individuals exposed to tear gas. The safety of tear gas products sold in the United States appears to be largely left to the discretion of manufacturers. 

There are also concerning unanswered questions about whether tear gas has exacerbated coronavirus symptoms or caused long-term lung damage to people who encounter it, according to the Oversight committee news release.

WUSA9 collected tear gas canisters minutes after federal police pushed protesters out of the area of Lafayette Square Park on June 1, 2020.

One specific product used is a CM Skat Shell made by Defense Technology that "is widely used as a crowd management tool for the rapid and broad deployment of chemical agents," according to the company's website. 

That agent was OC tear gas as identified on the canister. Defense Technology was a part of Safariland Group until the company sold its ownership stake after the June protests.

RELATED: MPD admits it used tear gas on Lafayette Park protesters in June 2020

Another canister, labeled "Spede-Heat" was collected by WUSA9 the day of the Lafayette Square protests. It contained artificial CS tear gas.

A third exploded rubber container, formerly an OC tear gas "Stinger Ball" grenade was also collected by WUSA9 that day. Requests for comment from both Defense Technology and Safariland to WUSA9 went unanswered.

Additionally, House members sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, Attorney General Merrick Garland, and EPA Administrator Michael Regan seeking information on whether there is any existing federal oversight of the use of tear gas products on people. 

The letter included a request for a briefing on the regulation of tear gas.

RELATED: New video shows federal police holding tear gas launchers, rolling stinger grenade at protesters

“Tear gas is frequently used in this country by law enforcement as a ‘riot control agent.’ Given this domestic use, we would have expected an analysis demonstrating that tear gas products are safe to use on humans, but we have not seen this. In fact, evidence suggests that tear gas may be connected to long-term adverse health impacts for those exposed," committee members said in their letter.

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