Investigation of Health Effects of Tear Gas

Click here to participate in the study. 

Tear gas has been used repeatedly and widely by law enforcement during protests and demonstrations in 2020 and 2021. For example, there have been many protests and demonstrations related to the killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.

Researchers at the University of Louisville are collaborating with Until Data Justice Partners to conduct an anonymous survey. We are concerned about the potential longer-term health effects of tear gas exposure for anyone who may have been exposed, including those who live near protest sites like Injustice Square and other sites around the nation.

It is already known that tear gas has acute and painful effects on the lungs, eyes, and skin. However, the research about tear gas and other organ systems—such as the reproductive and cardiovascular systems-- is very limited. 

We need to document and understand all of the health risks associated with use of tear gas.

Tear Gas Photo

About the Tear Gas Study

Study participants take an online anonymous questionnaire, which takes from 15-30 minutes. The questionnaire asks how many protests you have attended, whether or not you believe you were exposed to tear gas, whether you held a tear gas canister, whether your home was exposed to tear gas, and a range of questions about different aspects of your health. The goal is to gather more robust data regarding possible health effects of tear gas on different body systems, such as the cardiovascular system and reproductive system. This study of the effects of tear gas has been approved by the University of Louisville Institutional Review Board (IRB number. #20.0802).

What do we hope to learn from this study?

We will examine the data and describe any symptoms or health effects experienced by protestors. We will examine whether more intense or more frequent exposure to tear gas is associated with a higher risk of specific health problems. We hope to learn about possible effects of tear gas on the reproductive system, the cardiovascular system, and any other health effects reported by participants.

What will we do with the results?

We will share our findings with the community. Information gained can be used for community education, as well as education for public health workers, healthcare workers, and law enforcement agencies.

The study is anonymous. No personal or identifiable information will be shared.

Who should participate in the survey?

Anyone 18 and older who may have been exposed to tear gas during a protest, including law enforcement officers and/or those deploying tear gas, is invited to participate. This information is for the entire community. If you know of anyone else who would be interested in participating, please direct them to this webpage. 

How can I participate? 

Click here to access the survey. We would like all responses before October 1, 2021.

Who can I contact for more information? 

Please email  for more information. The study is being conducted by Dr. Kira Taylor, associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Population Health at the UofL School of Public Health and Information Sciences, and Dr. Monica Unseld, founder of Until Justice Data Partners Inc.

What is tear gas? How does it work? The most common chemicals used in tear gas are chloroacetophenone (CN) and chlorobenzylidenemalononitrile (CS), which are aerosolized and typically sprayed from pressurized canisters or tossed into a crowd as grenades. When the tear gas chemicals come into contact with transient receptor potential (TRP) ion channels in the airways and mucous membranes, the individual experiences pain and inflammation. The TRP ion channels are embedded in the cell membranes of all organs in the body. Therefore, it is possible that tear gas may be affecting many organ systems.

What should someone do if they have been exposed to tear gas?
They should get away from the chemicals and wash any traces from their bodies to help limit damage to their health. Cut clothes off if necessary; do not remove over the head. Wash glasses and jewelry before wearing again. Wash exposed surfaces in the home. Those with respiratory conditions have a higher risk of severe symptoms and long-term health issues following exposure. 

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