The tear gas grenades being used to quell protestors in Egypt are actually made right here in the USA. They're intended to cause "tearing of the eyes" and "irritation of respiratory tract and mucous membranes". What's inside the tear gas?
Ars Technica took a look at some of the tear gas canisters, which are made by Combined Tactical Systems in Jamestown, Pennsylvania, and found that the grenades and canisters are "largely filled with a fuel mixture that burns to disperse the tearing agent." One grenade, the Model 5220 CN Smoke Grenade, has a starter mixture of potassium nitrate, silicon, and charcoal which is used to light CN smoke (a form of tear gas):
The CN smoke is 71 percent fuel, made up of potassium chlorate, magnesium carbonate, nitrocellulose, and… sucrose. The other 29 percent of the smoke is the tearing agent, chloroacetophenone, which has been around for nearly a century and causes severe irritation of the mucous membranes.
That's a lot of stinky stuff and yep, the tear gas lists itself as having a "pungent odor", which one protestor can attest to. He told ABC, "Your eyes tear up a lot so you can't see, and you feel like you're suffocating. You can actually breathe but you feel like you are suffocating so you try to run, but when you run you inhale more." [Ars Technica]
Image Credit: The Atlantic