A PRIMER ON CS GAS

What is CS gas?

CS, which stands for 0-chlorobenzalmalononitrile, is actually a white solid powder usually mixed with a dispersal agent, like methylene chloride, which carries the particles through the air. CS is more stable, more potent and less toxic than the more commonly used CN agent.


What are the physical effects of CS exposure?

Physical effects of this tear gas are felt almost immediately. They are: severe burning in the eyes, involuntary closing of the eyes, copious tearing, extreme burning in the nose, tendency to breathe through the mouth, extreme burning in the throat, coughing, consciousness of pain, holding of breath, breathing and heart rate slows down, blood pressure rises, circulation on the periphery of the body shuts down. In some cases there can be mucus secretion, nausea and vomiting, also burning sensations on the body in places touched by the hands. Recovery quickly follows after an affected person is immersed in fresh air. CS gas is not known to have caused any deaths or permanent injuries, however its use has been banned in some American military operations.


Is CS effective in getting people out of buildings?

Police training manuals warn that CS should be used out of doors, to disperse crowds, and CN used indoors, to force people outside. "Police and Security News" states: "In a confined space, CS can readily induce panic behavior if the adversary is unable to escape the contaminated area." According to a handbook called the "Police Chemical Agents Manual," during exposure to CS a person is "incapable of effective concerted action." Toxicologists describe the effects of CS as incapacitating, and certainly not the agent of choice if a fire is anticipated.


Did CS exposure inside the Mt. Carmel compound prevent any of the inhabitants from exiting?

Although the exact answer to this question may never be known, there are at least two reasons why CS probably did not worsen the situation during the seige. First, on the day tear gas was deployed there was a steady 17 to 24 mph wind, which, combined with gaping holes in the compound made by the tanks, created a situation where much of the tear gas was blown away. Second, there was a supply of gas masks inside the comound, some of which were used by the Davidians during the seige. A fire report written by Texas-based investigators called the tear gas operation a failure.

Sources:

"Police Chemical Agents Manual" written by Thompson S. Crockett

"Police and Security News" May/June 1988, article by William E. Burroughs, Staff Instructor, Smith & Wesson Academy.

Fire Investigation Report, Branch Davidian Compound, Waco TX, report date July 13, 1993 by Paul C. Gray et al.

Telephone conversation with Dr. Yves Alarie, Inhalation Toxicologist, University of Pittsburgh.


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