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News :: DNC : Organizing
Using vinegar/lemon to protect against teargas- disinformation?
27 Jul 2004
Modified: 01:30:40 AM
As we all prepare for the potential use of chemical weapons at the Democratic National Convention (and elsewhere!) I've revisted the traditional wisdom about soaking those bandanas in vinegar or lemon juice.
According to Wikipedia's entry on Tear gas CS gas, which as far as I can tell is the most common teargas encountered in the street, hydrolyzes rapidly in water followed by an alkaline (a base) solution. The other gases are more stable and, according to the wiki entry, can only really be removed (instead of rendered harmless).

Based on my knoweldge of chemistry, if it's breaking down faster in the presence of a base it has to break down slower in the presence of an acid. That means using vinegar or lemon juice on your bandana might actually cause the CS to stay in your bandana longer, some of which in turn might evaporate and have undesired effects.

Everything I've checked on for the other chemical weapons (namely OC/pepper spray) says that acids don't help. So, I want to put it out there, that the advice we've all learned (and I've certainly repeated) to soak the bandana in vinegar or lemon juice is disinformation. This may have started because someone tried vinegar and, because they didn't smell the tear gas, thought they weren't feeling the effects as much. Or, given the fact that, as far as I can tell, acid makes it worse, we need to also consider the possiblity that this is a case of intentional disinformation.

I've presented an argument based on what is largely science. I'll finish it off with one other argument, from a former marine family member who was providing advice for dealing with teargas. He suggested to use cloth soaked in water, and when I asked if vinegar would be better, he said he never heard anything of that sort, and if anything, the vinegar or other acid would be an irritant on top of the teargas. Now, I have no idea what Marines are taught re: teargas, especially because I'm sure they're not usually on the victim end of it. But, take this argument, combine it with the science above, and hopefully the science of people who will comment on this.

I'll see y'all in the streets, and in the event the police escalate things with chemicals, hopefully we'll be prepared.

This work is in the public domain
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Re: Using vinegar/lemon to protect against teargas- disinformation?
27 Jul 2004
Wikipedia entry on tear gas
Re: Using vinegar/lemon to protect against teargas- disinformation?
27 Jul 2004
if you want to prove/disprove it, it seems you'd have to do the equations rather than generalize - that, or test it. I'm gonna stick with what the medics told me.
As for the marines, well, I don't think they have culture of spending as little money and shit. After all, when was the last time you heard a marine shout "DIY or Die!" ?
Re: Using vinegar/lemon to protect against teargas- disinformation?
27 Jul 2004
Here is a link to a legitimage FREE online textbook on chemical weapons that contains a huge amount of CORRECT information about limiting exposure, decontamnation, and so on:

http://www.tscm.com/mace.html

The author is a formally Certified Master Instructor, and is literally the teacher who teaches the teacher.
Re: Using vinegar/lemon to protect against teargas- disinformation?
27 Jul 2004
It's PEPPER SPRAY that acids destroy.
Re: Using vinegar/lemon to protect against teargas- disinformation?
27 Jul 2004
As a Street Medic, there's been some discussion of this and though there's never benn any one explanaiton of why it is better, it is a tradition going back to the Vietnam protests according to our most experienced Medics.

The important thing is to have a physical barrier (such as bandana) that is soaked to slow the irritant from crossing the barrier. My assumption is that since tear gas is probably non-polar (making it oil-soluble and thus easily absorbed into skin adn mucous membranes) an acid soak (high polar) would theoretically be more advantageous.

Seems to have worked OK for me in Quebec, though after a while you do have to wash out the tear gas or else you will be self-contaminating.
Re: Using vinegar/lemon to protect against teargas- disinformation?
27 Jul 2004
From prior experience, I know that a bandana doused in a bit of apple cider vinegar does help against tear-gas, however, lemon juice is unheard of to me--I will stick to what has worked for me for now....
Re: Using vinegar/lemon to protect against teargas- disinformation?
27 Jul 2004
In either case, cops in Boston are extremely unlikely to use tear gas, but might use pepper spray/pepper spray gas. Not that we should let our guards down...
Re: Using vinegar/lemon to protect against teargas- disinformation?
27 Jul 2004
The Black Cross Health Collective has a very informative website addressing this and other chemical weapons questions. Check it out:
http://www.blackcrosscollective.org.
Re: Using vinegar/lemon to protect against teargas- disinformation?
27 Jul 2004
Urine soaked handkerchiefs were used in WWI to protect from chemical agents. Given the casualty rates of that bosses brawl, it's hard to vouch for the effaciacy of the above method.

Dig deep and buy an effin gas mask.
Re: Using vinegar/lemon to protect against teargas- disinformation?
27 Jul 2004
I'd be wary of buying a gas mask, though. They make nice targets for our oh-so-wonderful boys in blue. Wear a gas mask, and you risk pigs specifically targetting you - lifting up the mask and spraying it directly in yer face. A soaked bandanna with a four-ply mask under it is safer, although not as effective in dealing with chems.
Re: Using vinegar/lemon to protect against teargas- disinformation?
27 Jul 2004
>Based on my knoweldge of chemistry, if it's
>breaking down faster in the presence of a base
>it has to break down slower in the presence of
>an acid

I'm not a chemist either, but I was a chemistry major in college, and I can tell you that this bit of logic, unfortunately doesn't work out. Many compounds will degrade in either an acid or basic environment. Proteins, for example, can be broken down into amino acids using either a strongly basic or a strongly acidic solution.

I don't know the chemistry of tear gas well enough to tell you how it is affected by a weak acid like vinegar. My guess is...not much. As I street medic, my experience has been that vinegar does though seem to make the gas more tolerable for a lot of people, so I usually carry some.
Re: Using vinegar/lemon to protect against teargas- WORKS!!!
27 Jul 2004
Here wqe go again

Another proof that bumble bees can't fly

The FACT is that both Apple Cider Vinegar or Lemon juice have been proven in the field (THE STREETS) to work. They make it easier to breath in the CS and other Chem Weapons.
I have been a StreetMedic in the streets for over 39 years and have used Apple Cider Vinegar hundreds of times in gas and it works.

Thanks for the disinformation anyway officer.

Doc