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Human Health Effects of Pepperspray - A Review of the Literature and Commentary

NCJ Number
Journal of Correctional Health Care Volume: 4 Issue: 1 Dated: (Spring 1997) Pages: 73-88
M D Cohen
Date Published
16 pages
This article examines the human health effects of pepperspray and capsaicin.
With widespread use of pepperspray by public safety and corrections agencies, injuries have occurred and questions have arisen about the safety and toxicity of oleoresin capsicum and the active ingredient, capsaicin. There are no published studies of the human health effects of pepperspray used for aerosol restraint. However, studies of the effects of capsaicin on human physiology, anecdotal experience with field use of pepperspray, and controlled exposure of correctional officers in training have shown adverse effects on the lungs, larynx, middle airway, protective reflexes, and skin. Behavioral and mental health effects also may occur if pepperspray is used abusively. Additional risks have been suggested by animal studies. The article recommends that use of pepperspray be restricted in order to prevent serious injuries, which are most likely to occur in people with asthma or chronic lung disease. Notes, figure, references