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November 29, 1976

Contact Allergy to Mace

Author Affiliations

From Doctors Park, Asheville, NC.

JAMA. 1976;236(22):2526. doi:10.1001/jama.1976.03270230048031

THE RIOTS and disruptions of the 1960s turned the attentions of police forces around the country to effective methods of crowd control. Tear gas, developed before World War II, had long been a popular method of dispersing and subduing the unruly because of its capacity to temporarily disable without inflicting permanent or serious injury. A lacrimator, tear gas irritates the mucous membranes of the eyes, causing painful smarting and profuse enough tearing to guarantee impaired vision.

Among the tens of thousands of American soldiers who experienced the "gas chamber drill" of having to don their gas masks quickly while clouds of tear gas were pumped into a sealed tent or room, a few cases of sensitivity reactions have been reported. Kissin and Mazer1 detail the case of an aviation cadet in whom itching and an erythematous eruption of the hands and trunk developed on his second exposure to tear