WHAT’S IN PEPPER SPRAY?
“It’s a public-health outrage if this kind of pepper spray contains 95 percent PCE or 98 percent TCE by [weight],” Mascareñas says. “Consumers have a right to know what toxic chemicals are in pepper spray and decide if they want to take the everyday risk of being exposed to another known carcinogen.”
But trichloroethylene is up to 5,000 times cheaper than the safe 1,1,1,2-Tetrafluoroethane, or HFA, which is used as the base inert ingredient in TCE-free pepper sprays. HFA costs about $500 a pound, while the same amount of TCE can be had for a dime.
Lenny Siegel of the Mountain View–based Center for Public Environmental Oversight, who last year was named by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as its Superfund “Citizen of the Year,” says, “Leakage from spray cans may pose a continuing hazard to those who carry them.”
While you can get it on many retail store shelves, several police agencies the Weekly contacted do not use pepper spray containing PCE or TCE.
The Santa Monica and Simi Valley police departments said they carry Sabre Red brand 10 percent capsaicin pepper spray. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department also uses Sabre Red, while the Los Angeles Police Department’s website indicates that it uses First Defense.
But who will protect consumers who are urged to buy pepper spray available on store shelves for personal safety but may be getting something more dangerous than they ever imagined?
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health says PCE is a potential human carcinogen and causes “depression of the central nervous system; damage to the liver and kidneys; impaired memory; confusion; dizziness; headache; drowsiness; and eye, nose and throat irritation.”
The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research reported in a February 2010 study that PCE increases the risk of Parkinson’s by a multiple of nine. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Sept. 30, 2011, found TCE causes liver and kidney cancer, lymphoma and other illnesses.
“There is a perception that a cancer-causing substance doesn’t belong in such a product, even if its intent is to irritate and/or disable,” Siegel says of TCE in pepper spray.
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