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  • Brittany Kwan

Police Brutality: A Harm to the Medical Community

The gradual accumulation of hate crimes worldwide inevitably causes a gray area in between two workplaces, the medical and police department, to increase.

Riot control agents (commonly known as tear gas), is a substance accessible to many police task forces, and is commonly used to control large crowds of people, especially in situations like riots. Tear gas is often made with two substances: chloroacetophenone (CN) and chlorobenzylidene malononitrile (CS). These chemicals are also used to create self-defence tools such as pepper spray. Although CN and CS are usually powders in standard state, they can be turned into droplets once pressurized and mixed with another liquid substance. Through a medical lens, these chemicals disrupt groups of people by causing irritation in the eyes, mouth, throat, lungs, and skin. Most people are able to quickly recover, but this is not always the case.

According to the CDC, after being exposed to a riot control agent, the effects people experience can range from 15 to 30 minutes. These values are case-dependent, such that they depend on the situation, including the environment (whether the incident took place indoors or outdoors), the way in which the individual has been exposed, and the exposure time. As a result, the use of tear gas has a range of short-term effects on the eyes: redness, blurring vision, excessive tearing, or even a burning sensation. In the event that someone is exposed to tear gas for prolonged periods of time, other eye injuries may include glaucoma (damage to the optic nerve, and the most common cause for blindness for those above the age of 60), or even blindness.

Aside from eye injuries from tear gas, there are plenty of medical impacts associated with the increase in police brutality. This includes physical injuries to other body parts, psychological stress originating from a traumatic experience, and death. Altogether, these consequences accumulate for individuals, leading to a series of other problems like resource deficits or financial struggles. For medical professionals, police brutality can be very disheartening and emotionally-demanding, as many constantly fight and advocate for regulations protecting against unnecessary loss of life.

As a result, it is very important to consider the foundation and origins of police brutality, oftentimes it being discrimination and racism, making it crucial for regulations and the responsibilities of police forces to consistently be reinforced. Neglecting these acts, the cause of them, or their existence can indirectly hurt others, and thus create a harmful environment in society.


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