Almost 1,000 people who were exposed to tear gas during rallies in Portland last summer reported ‘menstrual health disruption’ after the fact, while hundreds of others experienced other health effects, according to new research.
The study, published in BMC-Public Health Journal this week, was based on an online survey of 2,257 adults who had been exposed to tear gas during the Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Portland between July 30 and August 20 last year.
It found that almost 94% of the participants reported various physical and/or psychological health issues following tear gas exposure.
Nearly 900 people reported abnormal periods involving more intense cramping and heavier bleeding than usual, which began or persisted days after exposure to the teargas. Other reported impacts were severe headaches, nausea, diarrhoea, eye problems and mental health impacts, the study says.
The findings challenge claims that exposure to teargas only leads to minor and temporary effects, said Dr. Britta Torgrimson-Ojerio, the lead author of the study.
The peer-reviewed study is the first to confirm a link between exposure to tear gas and abnormal menstruation – something which had been speculated about by protesters on social media last year.
The study has its limitations, however. The authors note it was based on a self-administered web-based survey, which could lead to some effects being overestimated.
Links between exposure to tear gas and miscarriages have been reported before. In 1988, the UN said that “dozens of miscarriages” had been caused by tear gas fired at Palestinians by Israeli soldiers. Most research on the health impacts of tear gas has been done on young men in military and police settings, the Guardian reported.
Thousands protested against police brutality and racism in Portland and other US cities last summer following the death of George Floyd at the hands of ex-cop Derek Chauvin. Some demonstrations devolved into violence and clashes with police.
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