By The Washington Post · Abigail Hauslohner · NATIONAL, HEALTH, POLITICS, COURTSLAW, SCIENCE-ENVIRONMENT, NATIONAL-SECURITY, MEDIA
The U.S. Park Police had earlier released a statement defending that effort, saying that their use of chemical agents against the crowd came in response to violence from protesters, and that it involved "pepper balls" and "smoke canisters." The statement went on to assert that "no tear gas was used" in the Lafayette Square incident.
"We now know through the U.S. Park Police that neither they, nor any of their law enforcement partners, used tear gas to quell rising violence," Tim Murtaugh, the Trump 2020 campaign's communications director said in a statement Tuesday night. "Every news organization which reported the tear gas lie should immediately correct or retract its erroneous reporting,"
The truth boils down to an exercise in semantics.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Riot control agents (sometimes referred to as "tear gas") are chemical compounds that temporarily make people unable to function by causing irritation to the eyes, mouth, throat, lungs, and skin."
And, according to the CDC, "several different compounds" fall under this definition, and are employed by security forces, including military and police, in riot control situations.
Among others, they include chloroacetophenone (CN), more commonly referred to as "mace," or pepper sprays - in other words, the compound that was deployed in Lafayette Square - and chlorobenzylidenemalononitrile (CS), "one of the most commonly used tear gases in the world," according to an article in the British Medical Journal.
These compounds are all typically referred to as "tear gas" because their most prominent effect is to bring on tears.
Riot control agents are designed to cause irritation within seconds of exposure, making the exposed want to flee the scene. And indeed, toxicologists advise that getting away from the gas is the best and first thing to do to mediate the impact.
The most common symptoms of exposure, according to the CDC can include excessive tearing and burning of the eyes, a runny nose, a burning mouth, chest tightness, coughing, skin burns, nausea and vomiting.