The Portland Police used Tear gas against the Black Lives Matter protestors last week as the protestors took to the road, assembled outside the police stations, and demanded defunding of the police. The police have been using tear gas since May. Federal Law Enforcement arrested many protestors, many of whom were not even involved in any illegal activities. The protestors and the activist community are now fearing the effects of frequent exposure to these gases.
Water Quality Check
Caustic gas, also known as CS Gas, has been repeatedly used by the Portland police every night since the death of George Floyd. The gas has coated the sidewalks and drain due to excessive usage. The watchdog agencies operating in Portland have shown fears against the overuse of the gas, as it has been polluting the water infrastructure. To add to the worry, not much information about the environmental effects of these chemicals is known to the public.
On 30th July, the Environmental Regulators in Oregon sent a message to Portland stating that the committee wants a thorough investigation that the amount of tear gas being used by the police to mitigate the ongoing protest is not going to cause permanent damage to the environment. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) wrote to Portland's Bureau of Environmental Services. The DEQ requested the city to conduct a further quality check on the water. They requested them to submit a detailed plan within 3 weeks of notice. The DEQ asked Portland to investigate how the contamination entered the Willamette River. The river merges with the Columbia River and flows out in the Pacific ocean.
The Oregan DEQ is also expecting a report on the pollutants in the water, including Barium, Copper, Zinc, Lead, Perchlorate, and Chromium. The report also has to compare the data with the same of last year, during the same time and same location. A representative of the city's sewer and the stormwater agency told that they had been conducting regular tests of the river water, closer to the place where tear gas was used. The spokesperson also said that there might be tear gas residue in some parts of the area. Portland Environmental Bureau last month conducted a study of the storm drains and did not find any evidence of tear gas residue.
CS Gas and Effects on the Environment and Humans
The tear gas used, also known as CS Gas, is a chemical known as 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile. A medical article in a British journal states that CS causes uncontrolled crying (epiphora), abnormal eyelid contraction (blepharospasm), burning, and visual troubles. The person may also face severe coughing, dizziness, headache, breathing problem, and skin reactions. 3 boys in Israel in 2010 died from the chemical irritant, the information given by Dr. Michele Heisler, medical Director at the University of Michigan. She also highlighted that tear gas should be used during a situation where there is no other option left.
An article in the Environmental Analytical Chemistry Journal said that CS Gas contains Clacum Hypochloride, Silbestrol, or Permanganate, which could reside in the soil for 10 years easily. Dr. Rohini J Haar, professor at the University of California, who advocates Human Rights, said that the police many times do not disclose what is in the canisters. This makes it very difficult to study the long term effect of exposure to the chemicals.
Author: Subhasri Banerjee
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