Pepper spray: Wikis


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Pepper spray (OC)
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Pepper spray, also known as OC spray (from "Oleoresin Capsicum"), OC gas, and capsicum spray, is a lachrymatory agent (a chemical compound that irritates the eyes to cause tears, pain, and even temporary blindness) that is used in riot control, crowd control, and personal self-defense, including defense against dogs and bears.

Although considered a less lethal agent, it may be deadly in rare cases, and concerns have been raised about a number of deaths where being pepper sprayed may have been a contributing factor.[1] Potential long-term effects of pepper spray have not been effectively researched.[citation needed]

The active ingredient in pepper spray is capsaicin, which is a chemical derived from the fruit of plants in the Capsicum genus, including chilis. Extraction of oleoresin capsicum from peppers involves finely ground capsicum, from which capsaicin is extracted in an organic solvent such as ethanol. The solvent is then evaporated, and the remaining waxlike resin is the oleoresin capsicum. An emulsifier such as propylene glycol is used to suspend the OC in water, and pressurized to make it aerosol in pepper spray. The high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) method is used to measure the amount of capsaicin within pepper sprays. Scoville Heat Units (SHU) are used to measure the concentration or "heat" of pepper spray.

Oleoresin capsicum also is used in foods where the flavor and piquancy are desired without visible pepper specks, or to standardize the Scoville units.[citation needed]

A synthetic analogue of capsaicin, pelargonic acid vanillylamide (desmethyldihydrocapsaicin), is used in another version of pepper spray known as PAVA spray which is used in the United Kingdom. Another synthetic counterpart of pepper spray, pelargonic acid morpholide, was developed and is widely used in Russia. Its effectiveness compared to natural pepper spray is unclear.

Pepper spray typically comes in canisters, which are often small enough to be carried or concealed in a pocket or purse. Pepper spray can also be bought concealed in items such as rings. There are also pepper spray projectiles available, which can be fired from a paintball gun. It has been used for years against demonstrators.



Pepper spray is an inflammatory. It causes immediate closing of the eyes, difficulty breathing, runny nose, and coughing [2]. The duration of its effects depend on the strength of the spray but the average full effect lasts around thirty to forty-five minutes, with diminished effects lasting for hours.

Pepper spray
Heat Peak (SR: 5,300,000)

The Journal of Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science published a study that concluded that single exposure of the eye to OC is harmless, but repeated exposure can result in long-lasting changes in corneal sensitivity. They found no lasting decrease in visual acuity.[3]

US Marines training after being exposed to pepper spray

The European Parliament Scientific and Technological Options Assessment (STOA) published in 1998 “An Appraisal of Technologies of Political Control”[4] with extensive information on pepper spray and tear gas. They write:

"The effects of pepper spray are far more severe, including temporary blindness which last from 15-30 minutes, a burning sensation of the skin which last from 45 to 60 minutes, upper body spasms which force a person to bend forward and uncontrollable coughing making it difficult to breathe or speak for between 3 to 15 minutes."

For those with asthma, taking other drugs, or subject to restraining techniques which restrict the breathing passages, there is a risk of death. The Los Angeles Times has reported at least 61 deaths associated with police use of pepper spray since 1990 in the USA,[5]. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) documented 27 people in police custody who died after exposure to pepper spray in California since 1993.[1][6][7]. However, the ACLU report counts any death occurring within hours of exposure to pepper spray. In all 27 cases, the coroners' report listed other factors as the primary cause of death, though in some cases the use of pepper spray may have been a contributing factor.[1]

The US Army concluded in a 1993 Aberdeen Proving Ground study that pepper spray could cause "Mutagenic effects, carcinogenic effects, sensitization, cardiovascular and pulmonary toxicity, neurotoxicity, as well as possible human fatalities. There is a risk in using this product on a large and varied population".[8] However, the pepper spray was widely approved in the US despite the reservations of the US military scientists after it passed FBI tests in 1991. As of 1999, it was in use by more than 2000 public safety agencies.[9]

The head of the FBI's Less-Than-Lethal Weapons Program at the time of the 1991 study, Special Agent Thomas W. W. Ward, was fired by the FBI and was sentenced to 2 months in prison for receiving payments from a peppergas manufacturer while conducting and authoring the FBI study that eventually approved pepper spray for FBI use.[7][10][11] Prosecutors said that from December 1989 through 1990, Ward received about $5,000 a month for a total of $57,500, from Luckey Police Products, a Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based company that was a major producer and supplier of pepper spray. The payments were paid through a Florida company owned by Ward's wife.[12]

Like Tasers, pepper spray has been associated with positional asphyxiation of individuals in police custody. There is much debate over the actual "cause" of death in these cases. There have been few controlled clinical studies of the human health effects of pepper spray marketed for police use, and those studies are contradictory. Some studies have found no harmful effects beyond the effects described above.[13]

Direct close-range spray can cause more serious eye irritation by attacking the cornea with a concentrated stream of liquid (the so-called "hydraulic needle" effect). Some brands have addressed this problem by means of an elliptically cone shaped spray pattern.

Deactivation and first aid

A demonstration of how pepper spray is used

Capsaicin is not soluble in water, and even large volumes of water will not wash it off. Victims are generally encouraged to blink vigorously in order to encourage tears, which will help flush the irritant from the eyes.

A formal study of five often-recommended treatments for skin pain (Maalox, 2% lidocaine gel, baby shampoo, milk, or water) concluded that: "...there was no significant difference in pain relief provided by five different treatment regimens. Time after exposure appeared to be the best predictor for decrease in pain..."[7]

To avoid rubbing the spray into the skin, thereby prolonging the burning sensation, and in order to not spread the compound to other parts of the body, victims should try to avoid touching affected areas. There are also wipes, manufactured [14] for the express purpose of serving to decontaminate someone who has received a dose of pepper spray. Many ambulance services and emergency departments use baby shampoo to remove the spray and with generally good effect. Some of the OC and CS will remain in the respiratory system, but a recovery of vision and the coordination of the eyes can be expected within 7 to 15 minutes.[15]

Some "triple-action" pepper sprays also contain "tear gas" (CS gas), which can be neutralized with sodium metabisulfite (Campden tablets, used in homebrewing), though it, too, is not water soluble and needs to be washed off using the same procedure as for pepper spray.


Pepper spray is banned for use in war by Article I.5 of the Chemical Weapons Convention which bans the use of all riot control agents in warfare whether lethal or non-lethal. In the US, when pepper spray is used in the workplace, OSHA requires a pepper spray MSDS be available to all employees .


In Asia

In Hong Kong, pepper spray is classified as "arms" under the "Laws of Hong Kong". Chap 238 Firearms and Ammunition Ordinance. Without a valid license from the Hong Kong Police Force, it is a crime to possess and can result in a fine of £100,000 and to imprisonment for 14 years.[16]

In India pepper spray is legal and does not require any license; however they are not sold over the counter and may only be used in self-defense.[17]

In Iraq OC spray is carried by U.S. military guard force members working in detainee operations.[citation needed]

In The Philippines the use of pepper spray for self defense is totally legal, and it is quite freely available in stores. It is more common than not for the average person to have a canister of pepper spray in their handbag, pocket, or car glove compartment.[citation needed]

In South Korea Pepper spray containing OC is legal, however gas-gun types need a simple license to own. CS is only available for police and private security firms.

In China Pepper spray is legal, it can be bought easily in tactical gear shops and online stores.[18]

In Australia

In the Northern Territory of Australia capsicum spray is prescribed by regulation to be a prohibited weapon under the "Weapons Control Act". Retrieved 2009-02-08. . This legislation makes it an offence for someone without permit, normally anyone who is not an officer of Police/Correctional Services/Customs/Defence, to carry a prohibited weapon.

In Europe

Police, like this Swedish police officer in riot gear at a 2007 demonstration, use pepper spray to contain violence.

In Ireland, the police force, (An Garda Síochana, Guardians of the peace), have recently been given pepper spray to combat crime, however they remain an unarmed force.

In Belgium it is classified as a prohibited weapon, and it is illegal for anyone other than police officers to carry a capsicum spray.[19] The use by the security services of public transport companies is also authorised after obtaining permission from the minister of internal affairs.[20]

In Denmark possession of pepper spray is illegal for private citizens. As of 2008, police officers carry pepper spray as part of their standard equipment. This was introduced following the shooting of a number of mentally ill citizens – in 2006 also killing 4 people[21] – who had behaved violently or in a threatening manner, leaving the police force in want of a defensive, less-lethal weapon. However, the police have also continued carrying guns, using them as frequently as before, causing the Danish civil liberties organization KRIM to conclude that pepper spray has not displaced the use of guns, but merely added to the arsenal of weapons of the police force.[22]

In Hungary pepper spray is reserved for law enforcement (including civilian members of the auxiliary police), civilians may carry canisters filled with maximum 20 gramms of any other lachrymatory agent. However there is no restriction for pepper gas pistol cartridges.[23]

In Slovakia pepper spray is classified as a self-defense weapon, and it is available to anyone over 18. Use against humans is officially prohibited. Anyone over 18 can also buy a starting pistol loaded with pepper or tear gas cartridges for self defense.[citation needed]

In Finland it is classified as a device governed by the firearm act and possession of pepper spray requires a license. Licenses are issued for defensive purposes and to individuals working jobs where such a device is needed such as the private security sector[24] The Finnish Supreme Court, although, has recently ruled in KKO:2010:7 that owning a pepper spray in self is not a punishable act; but on the other hand, carrying one can be punished as a device capable of harming other people.

In Germany pepper sprays labelled for the purpose of defense against animals may be owned and carried by anyone (even minors). Such sprays are not legally considered as weapons §1. Carrying it at (or on the way to and from) demonstrations may still be punished [25] Sprays that are not labelled "animal-defense spray" or do not bear the test mark of the Materialprüfungsanstalt de:Materialprüfungsanstalt (MPA) (material testing institute) are classified as prohibited weapons. Justified use against humans as self-defense is allowed [26]. CS sprays bearing a test mark of the MPA may be owned and carried by anyone over the age of 14.[27]

In Iceland possession of pepper spray is illegal for private citizens. Police officers carry pepper spray as part of their standard equipment.

In the United Kingdom, "Any weapon of whatever description designed or adapted for the discharge of any noxious liquid, gas or other thing" is a Prohibited Weapon, under S.5 of The Firearms Act 1968. The same act covers other prohibited weapons such as automatic firearms and rocket launchers, all of which can only be possessed by permission of the Home Secretary. Although legal for police officers, recent debates have arisen whether such a weapon should be legal for civilians as means of defensive purposes only.

In Russia pepper sprays are classified as a self-defence device (not a weapon) and can be carried by anyone over 18. Usage against humans is legal. OC is not only agent used, CS, CR, PAM (МПК) and (rarely) CN are also perfectly legal and highly popular.

In Switzerland pepper sprays are classified as a self-defence device (not a weapon) and can be carried by anyone. Usage against humans is legal. [28]

In Spain approved pepper spray made with 5% CS is available to anyone older than 18 years. Has recently been adopted for some civilian use OC pepper spray (e.g. one of 22 grams, with no registration DGSP-07-22-SDP, approved by the Ministry of Health and Consumption).

In North America

In Canada

In Canada all products with a label containing the words pepper spray, mace, etc, or otherwise originally produced for use on humans are classified as a prohibited weapon[29]. Only law enforcement officers, and individuals/corporations who have special government permits may legally carry or possess pepper spray. Any similar canister with the labels reading "dog spray" and/or "bear spray" is regulated under the Pest Control Products Act - while legal to be carried by anyone, it is against the law if its use causes 'a risk of imminent death or serious bodily harm to another person' or harming the environment and carries a penalty up to a fine of $500,000 and jail time of maximum 3 years[30]. Of course, the legality of using spray intended for animal deterent on a person would be determined in court on a case-by-case basis.

In the United States

  • In Massachusetts, residents may purchase defense sprays only from licensed Firearms Dealers in that state, and must hold a valid Firearms Identification Card (FID) or License to Carry Firearms (LTC).[31][32]
  • In Wisconsin, tear gas is not permissible. By regulation, OC products with a maximum OC concentration of 10% and weight range of oleoresin of capsicum and inert ingredients of 15-60 grams are authorized. This is 1/2 oz. and 2 oz. spray. Further, the product cannot be camouflaged, and must have a safety feature designed to prevent accidental discharge. The units may not have an effective range of over 20 feet and must have an effective range of six feet. In addition there are certain labeling and packaging requirements: must state cannot sell to anyone under 18 and the phone number of the manufacturer has to be on the label. The units must also be sold in sealed tamper-proof packages.[31]
  • In Michigan, pepper spray is legal if it has less than 2% of the active ingredient, this decreases the length of the effects but not the SHU. Sprays containing a mixture of CN/CS are also banned, though tear gas containing only CS is legal.[33]
  • In the state of New York, pepper spray may be legally possessed by any person age 18 or over; however, it must be purchased in person (i.e. cannot be purchased by mail-order or internet sale) either at a pharmacy or from a licensed firearm retailer (NY Penal Law 265.20 14 (a)), and the seller must keep a record of purchases. The use of pepper spray to prevent a public official from performing his/her official duties is a class-E felony;[34]
  • New Jersey allows non-felons over the age of 18 to possess a small amount of pepper spray, with no more than three quarters of an ounce of chemical substance. [35]
  • In the State of Washington, persons over 18 may carry personal-protection spray devices. Persons over age 14 may carry personal-protection spray devices with their legal guardian's consent.[36]
  • In the state of Maine, criminal usage of pepper spray or similar products is a violation of law, however usage of said products for self-defence as well as possession are legal.[37]
  • In many (but not all) other states, pepper spray can be purchased at various stores and carried legally by anyone over 18. However, many states do not say anything about age.
  • In California, the container holding the defense spray must be less than 2.5 Oz

See also


  1. ^ a b c Pepper_Spray_New_Questions
  2. ^ Effects Of Pepper Spray
  3. ^ Effects of Oleoresin Capsicum Pepper Spray on Human Corneal Morphology and Sensitivity - Vesaluoma et al. 41 (8): 2138 - Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science
  4. ^ pg 35
  5. ^ Los Angeles Times June 18, 1995
  6. ^ ACLU, Oleoresin Capsicum, - Pepper Spray Update, More Fatalities, More Questions, June, 1995, p. 2.
  7. ^ a b "Pepper spray's lethal legacy" in The Ottawa Citizen. October 22, 1998, p. A1
  8. ^ Salem, 1993
  9. ^ Smith CG, Stopford W (1999). "Health hazards of pepper spray". N C Med J 60 (5): 268–74. PMID 10495655.  Archived at
  10. ^ "Former F.B.I. Agent Is Sentenced to Prison" in The New York Times. May 20, 1996, p. B8.
  11. ^ "Ex-FBI Agent Pleads Guilty in Conflict-of-Interest Case" in The Washington Post. February 13, 1996, p. A12.
  12. ^ "Pepper spray study is tainted", San Francisco Chronicle. May 20, 1996, p. B8.
  13. ^ Reay DT. Forensic pathology, part 1: death in custody. Clinics in Lab Med 1998;18:19-20; Watson WA, Stremel KR, and Westdorp EJ. Oleoresin capsicum (cap-stun) toxicity from aerosol exposures. Ann Pharmacotherapy 1996;30:733-5.
  14. ^ Fox Labs: Pepper Spray Manufacturer
  15. ^ Young, D., Police Marksman Magazine, July/August 1995 Issue.
  16. ^ HK Laws. Chap 238 Firearms and Ammunition Ordinance Section 2
  17. ^ [1]
  18. ^ [2]
  19. ^ "Nieuwe wapenwet (New Gun Law)". Retrieved 2008-04-15. 
  20. ^ K.B. of 10 june 2006 tot regeling van het model, de inhoud, de wijze van dragen en het gebruik van spuitbussen en handboeien door de leden van de veiligheidsdiensten van de openbare vervoersmaatschappijen(B.S. 20 june 2006.
  21. ^ Peberspray har hjulpet Østjyllands Politi
  22. ^ Peberspray skal forhindre politimord
  23. ^ 175/2003. (X. 28.) Korm. rendelet a közbiztonságra különösen veszélyes eszközökről
  24. ^ "How your gun permit applications are considered". 2007-10-21. ISSN 1797-1993. Retrieved 2008-03-23. 
  25. ^ §2 VersammlG.
  26. ^ §32 StGB
  27. ^ Ministerium des Inneren on Weapon Laws (german)
  28. ^ Bern Police - FAQ
  29. ^ "Regulations Prescribing Certain Firearms and other Weapons, Components and Parts of Weapons, Accessories, Cartridge Magazines, Ammunition and Projectiles as Prohibited or Restricted (SOR/98-462)". Retrieved 2008-06-15. 
  30. ^ Pest Control Products Act ( 2002, c. 28 )
  31. ^ a b Pepper Spray Laws, Pepper Spray, Mace
  32. ^ [3]
  33. ^ Laws Pepper Spray
  34. ^ Pepper Spray Laws
  35. ^ [4]
  36. ^ [5]
  37. ^ [6]

Study guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiversity

Pepper Spray has become a common non-lethal self defense weapon especially popular with women and students. It is easily obtained from any number of Internet vendors. Unless the people purchasing pepper spray are security or law enforcement professionals, they receive no training on the safe use of this weapon. Pepper Spray Safety is an article that has been written by a pepper spray merchant that provides guidance on the selection of different types of pepper spray and discusses the proper and safe use of pepper spray for self defense.

Simple English

Pepper spray (also called OC spray, from Oleoresin capsicum) is a spray used for self-defence, by spraying it into an attacker's face. It makes eyes water and causes intense pain, sometimes even leading to temporary blindness. Pepper spray is an inflammatory agent. When someone is sprayed with pepper spray, their eyes will close and they will have difficulty breathing, a runny nose, and cough.[1] The stronger the spray is, the longer the effects last, but the average full effect lasts around thirty to forty-five minutes, with longer effects lasting for hours. Pepper spray is mostly used by police forces for riot control, but in some countries people can use it for self-defence.

The active ingredient in pepper spray is capsaicin, a chemical found in capsicums, chillis and other members of the pepper family.

Pepper spray usually comes in canisters and can be sprayed up to twenty-five metres.



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