My watch list  

Riot control agent


    Riot control agents are non-lethal lachrymatory agents used for riot control. Most commonly used riot control agents are pepper spray and various kinds of tear gas.

These chemicals disperse a crowd that could be protesting, in a riot, or to clear a building. They can rapidly produce sensory irritation or disabling physical effects which usually disappear 15 minutes (for tear gas) and up to 2 hours (for pepper spray) following termination of exposure. They can also be used for chemical warfare defense training, although their use in warfare itself is a violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, Article II, Section 9 of which still authorizes their use for civilian law enforcement [1].



Two lachrymatory agent most commonly used for riot control are pepper spray and various kinds of tear gas.

Pepper spray

Main article: Pepper spray

The active ingredient in pepper spray is capsaicin, which is a chemical derived from the fruit of plants in the Capsicum genus, including chiles. A synthetic analogue of capsaicin, pelargonic acid vanillylamide (desmethyldihydrocapsaicin), is used in another version of pepper spray known as PAVA spray which is used in England. Another synthetic counterpart of pepper spray, pelargonic acid morpholide, was developed and is widely used in Russia. Its effectiveness compared to natural pepper spray is unclear and it has caused some injuries.

Pepper spray typically comes in canisters, which are often small enough to be carried or concealed in a pocket or purse. Pepper spray can also be bought concealed in items such as rings. There are also pepper spray projectiles available, which can be fired from a paintball gun. Having been used for years against demonstrators [2], it is increasingly being used by police in routine interventions.[3]

Tear gas

Tear gas is a non-specific term for any chemical that is used to cause temporary incapacitation through irritation of eyes and/or respiratory system. It is used as a hand-held spray or can be fired in canisters that heat up spewing out a 'gas' cloud at a steady rate. Technically, these clouds are aerosols, and not true gases.

Popular tear gases include the eye irritants CS, CN, and CR. Among a long series of substances, three have become of greater importance than the others. They are effective and imply low risks when used. These substances are chloroacetophenone (codename CN), ortho-chlorobenzylidene-malononitrile (codename CS) and dibenz (b,f)-1,4-oxazepine (codename CR). CN was formerly the most widely used tear gas. Today, CS has largely replaced CN and is probably the most widely used tear gas internationally.


At room temperature, these tear gases are white solid substances. They are stable when heated and have low vapor pressure. Consequently, they are generally dispersed as aerosols. All of them have low solubility in water but can be dissolved in several organic solvents. Hydrolysis of CN is very slow in water solution, also when alkali is added. CS is rapidly hydrolyzed in water solution (half-life at pH 7 is about 15 min. at room temperature) and extremely rapid when alkali is added (half-life at pH 9 is about 1 min.). CR is hydrolyzed only to a negligible extent in water solution.

CN and CR are, thus, difficult to decompose under practical conditions, whereas CS can easily be inactivated by means of a water solution. Skin is suitably decontaminated by thorough washing with soap and water. CS is then decomposed whereas CN and CR are only removed.

Decontamination of material after contamination with CS can be done with a 5-10 % soda solution or 2 % alkaline solution. If this type of decontamination cannot be accomplished (e.g., contaminated rooms and furniture), then the only other means is by intensive air exchange—preferably with hot air.

Exposed streets and sidewalks will have toxic and irritating CS powder that will be stirred into the air by traffic and pedestrians long after the cloud has dissipated, and should be washed away with water.

In contrast to human beings, domesticated animals generally have low sensitivity to tear gases. Dogs and horses can therefore be used by police for riot control even when tear gas is used.[citation needed]

Dispensing large quantities

Backpack dispensers for riot control agents, when the intent is to use a larger quantity than possible with grenades, are one type of device used by organizations that might, for example, need to cover a prison yard [4] Dispensers are also made for attachment to helicopters; see CBU-19 [5].

Video Game Usage

Many war video games use teargas as a weapon, such as Battlefield 2, which makes the player's vision blur when inside the cloud of teargas, and in Kane & Lynch: Dead Men, which pixelates the screen in the event of the player walking near tear gas.

See also

  • Pepper spray
  • Use of poison gas in World War I
  • Review about Pharmacology, Toxicology, Biochemistry and Chemistry of several riot control agents:

Olajos EJ, Salem H (2001). "Riot Control Agents: Pharmacology, Toxicology, Biochemistry and Chemistry". J Appl Toxicol 21 (5): 355-91. doi:10.1002/jat.767. PMID 11746179.


  1. ^ 9. "Purposes Not Prohibited Under this Convention" means
  2. ^ Use on infants
  3. ^ Use on infants
  4. ^ Commercial Backpack Blower / Sprayer System,US Army CBDCOM,June 1998.
  5. ^ Operation TAILWIND Review Extract of U.S Air Force Report,Air Force Historical Office, July 1998
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Riot_control_agent". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
Your browser is not current. Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 does not support some functions on Chemie.DE