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Pepper spray also known as OC spray (from "Oleoresin Capsicum") OC gas and capsicum spray is a lachrymatory agent (a chemical compound that irritates the eyes to cause tears pain and even temporary blindness) that is used in riot control crowd control and personal self-defence including defence against dogs and bears. Its inflammatory effects cause the eyes to close taking away vision. This temporary blindness allows officers to more easily restrain subjects and permits persons using pepper spray for self-defense an opportunity to escape.
Although considered a non-lethal agent it may be deadly in rare cases and concerns have been raised about a number of deaths where being pepper sprayed may have been a contributing factor.
The active ingredient in pepper spray is capsaicin which is a chemical derived from the fruit of plants in the Capsicum genus including chilis. Extraction of oleoresin capsicum from peppers involves finely ground capsicum from which capsaicin is extracted in an organic solvent such as ethanol. The solvent is then evaporated and the remaining waxlike resin is the oleoresin capsicum. An emulsifier such as propylene glycol is used to suspend the OC in water and pressurized to make it aerosol in pepper spray. The high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) method is used to measure the amount of capsaicin and major capsaicinoids within pepper sprays.
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 the United Kingdom. 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.
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. It has been used for years against demonstrators.
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