Ovrr the past two decades, sales of tear gas, and less-lethal weapons more broadly, have grown substantially. Just as tear-gas salesmen in the 1920s monitored news headlines, today’s chemical executives receive market reports informing them, for instance, that “civil unrest has become commonplace in many regions of the world, from protesters in Brazil to activists in the Middle East. Governments have responded by purchasing record amounts of non-lethal weapons.”
In the 100 years since it was first developed, tear gas, advertised as a harmless substance, has often proven fatal, asphyxiating children and adults, causing miscarriages, and injuring many. The human-rights organization Amnesty International has listed tear gas as part of the international trade in tools of torture, and Turkey’s medical association has condemned it.
Yet while tear gas remains banned from warfare under the Chemical Weapons Convention, its use in civilian policing grows.