The tear gas that law enforcement officers are sending through crowds of demonstrators protesting George Floyd’s death may increase the risk of the coronavirus spreading through the demonstrators, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
In addition to the immediate pain that the tear gas causes by producing watery eyes and burning throats, lung damage may occur, making people more susceptible to getting a respiratory disease, a coronavirus trigger, studies on the risks of exposure have revealed. The gas can also incite coughing, which can spread the virus from an infected person.
Massive groups of protesters have taken to city streets nationwide in the past week over the death of Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis who died May 25 when a white police officer pinned him to the pavement with a knee on his neck.
Sven-Eric Jordt, a researcher at Duke University who has studied the effects of tear gas agents, said he has been surprised to watch how much law enforcement officials have turned to the control method recently.
“I’m really concerned that this might catalyze a new wave of COVID-19,” Jordt said.