Pepper spray’s primary active ingredient is Capsaicin, which is the same substance that gives peppers and hot sauces their signature kick. The heat of a single jalapeño pepper is about 2,500 to 5,000 Scoville heat units (SHUs), while the pepper spray brands used by law enforcement measure anywhere from 500,000 to two million SHUs, with some going as high as 5.3 million SHUs.
Given its chemical makeup, you may be able to easily imagine the typical effects of pepper spray, especially if you have been exposed to it as a part of your law enforcement, military training or as part of the general public. Unfortunately, as some individuals have learned far too late, the effects of pepper spray are not always temporary, and under the wrong circumstances, they could even be deadly, making it important a pepper spray injury attorney is consulted.
The Intended Effects of Pepper Spray Exposure
Unlike tear gas, a nerve agent that directly impacts sensory receptors around the eyes, skin, and mucous membranes, pepper spray is a chemical irritant. This means it causes a physical reaction in the form of inflammation within exposed tissue. Because of this difference, pepper spray tends to work much more quickly than tear gas, and repeated exposure generally does not dilute the severity of its effects.
The most common effects associated with pepper spray exposure are swelling in the eyes, nose, and throat, coughing, difficulty breathing, and a burning sensation in exposed skin. In certain situations, individuals sprayed with pepper spray may experience temporary blindness, and certain physiological and psychological effects like hyperventilation and anxiety may also occur.
Whatever combination of effects an individual exposed to pepper spray experiences, their symptoms generally fade within 30 minutes to an hour of direct exposure. However, these effects may persist much longer if the individual was indoors when they were exposed, or if they do not take measures like flushing their eyes with water or removing contaminated clothing quickly after exposure.
Severe Complications for Certain Individuals
While it is uncommon for pepper spray to have any lasting effects on individuals exposed to it, severe complications have occurred several times in recent years. Individuals with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma may experience more severe initial symptoms after exposure, and individuals with cardiovascular problems have occasionally suffered life-threatening arrhythmia after pepper spray exposure.
In 2018, for example, a police trainee had to be defibrillated and was hospitalized for several weeks following exposure to pepper spray during a training exercise. While the trainee survived his ordeal, he now suffers from a permanent brain injury from the lack of oxygen to his brain, and there are many others who suffered heart problems following pepper spray exposure that have not been as fortunate.
Talk with a Pepper Spray Injury Attorney About Potential Effects of Exposure
Until recently, pepper spray manufacturers did not publicize the specific ingredients that went into their products. Even after numerous incidents in which exposed individuals suffered dangerous health outcomes, many manufacturers have yet to include warnings about these risks in their product’s packaging. If you experienced prolonged harmful effects from pepper spray exposure as a police officer, military service member or as part of the general public, you may have grounds for civil litigation.
A pepper spray injury lawyer could walk you through your legal options and help you seek compensation for the injuries you sustained from negative pepper spray effects. Call today to learn more.