Good Question: What’s In Pepper Spray?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The video of a UC-Davis police officer spraying pepper spray in the faces of protesters has outrage many. Now, the officer and his chief are both on administrative leave. So, is pepper spray safe and what’s in it?

“I mean it’s a derivative of actual pepper. It’s a food product essentially,” said Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly.

Brooklyn Park Police Inspector Mark Bruley agreed. In fact, on the side of the canister of the Defense Technology MK-9 product it says, “Food Grade Ingredient.”

“It’s cayenne pepper,” said Bruley. “It’s real name is Oleoresin Capsicum, we call it OC.”

But make no mistake — this is powerful stuff. Every rookie cop in Brooklyn Park is sprayed with it, and every year officers are exposed to it, so they know what it’s like, said Bruley.

“It hurts. It feels like you can’t breathe, but you absolutely can breathe, you’re taking in oxygen,” he said.

The Postal Service started using pepper spray, on dogs. It’s only been approved for police since 1992.

“It’s an intermediate weapon. They have to look at it and see, if I use this what would happen,” he explained.

For example: “You go into a bar, a guy’s out of control, wants to fight. You spray him, move him arrest him. that’s what it’s for, a stream, for one person,” said Bruley.

The Scoville scale measures how hot peppers are. The bell pepper is a zero. A jalapeno rates a 3,500. The cayenne can be 50,000 units. Pepper spray is usually around 2 million units, which is 570 times hotter than a jalapeno.

Even though your eyes burn and swell for 30 minutes, researchers have found getting sprayed once doesn’t lead to any vision problems. Pepper spray works by getting into the cells in the outer layer of the cornea, and those cells repair themselves fairly quickly.

However, repeated exposures can lead to permanent damage to the cornea.

Pepper spray manufacturers suggests spraying from at least 6 feet away, and it only works when you spray the eyes, nose or mouth.

“If I spray someone in the chest, they’ll wonder why they’re so wet,” said Bruley.

People with asthma or breathing problems can have adverse effects from being pepper sprayed. There are also some deaths that have been linked to pepper spray, although it’s often difficult to make a direct connection, considering the people who get sprayed are often under the influence of narcotics or alcohol.

So, it may not be the OC that’s the problem. Researchers aren’t sure of the impact of repeated exposure of some of the chemicals used as a propellant to make the pepper spray, spray.

“It is very safe,” said Bruley.

More from Jason DeRusha
  • Pat

    The BPPD officer didn’t talk about “FOLLOWING A LAWFUL ORDER BY POLICE”. I am not nessesarily endorsing what happened nor am I saying they shouldn’t have done it…The bottom line is, my assumption is the Officers gave a lawful order for the protesters to leave or move or vacate…. whichever it was a lawful order was issued the protesters did not follow that order so the Police were left with 2 choices according to protocol 0ne is e the “Tazer” the other is Mace or “Pepper” spray. Tazers generally do not and are not designed for crowds or groups of people so they were left with no other choice per protocol!
    Most Police protocols call for verbal commands/orders, if that order is not followed or if dialog as it is called is unsuccesful, (to avoid officer or protester injury) a Tazer or Mace “Pepper Spray) is used to get compliance!!!

    • Reality sucks

      I’m assuming you didn’t see the actual video of the event. The cop was “extinguishing” peacful sit-in style people like he was fertilizing his backyard plants. It’s a REALLY good thing that this pepper sprayin’ cop isn’t on the job. He knew the painful effects but splashed it around like water with a straight face. PSYCHO!

      • Reality stings

        Fact check. The police ordered the protestors to leave. The protestors did not comply. The police officer escalated. Pepper spray is designed to spray in the face and it’s less lethal than a whack in the face with night stick.

        The people have a right to protest their treatment in court. Good luck with that.

        Bottom line. When a police officer makes an order, you might want to comply with it.

        • Achtung!!

          You will obey.Orders are to be followed, mein Liebchen.

        • Citizen

          A quote for r. stings: “UC Davis professor Nathan Brown gave a chilling account of what happened to David and other students: “When students covered their eyes with their clothing, police forced open their mouths and pepper-sprayed down their throats,” Brown said. “Several of these students were hospitalized.”

          • bobby

            That is one person’s account of what happened. (and a UC Davis professor who was part of the protest, so he’s quote holds no weight with me) There is no video of an officer forceably spraying the pepper spray into anyone’s throat. I don’t buy it.

            2 people went to the hospital, and were quickly released.

    • No, Not True

      Water hoses. Call the fire department. Turn on the hoses.

  • See BS

    You can call pepper spray “Pinko deodorant”

    • Mike

      More like fascist cologne………..

      • See BS

        Pepper Spray = Liberal Lysol

      • See BS

        Italian Benito Mussolini Cologne? That doesn’t even make sence because he claimed to be a “Revolutionalist”

  • John

    For not being a cop, well rounded and well stated Pat. I did see the video, and while they were not active aggressive, they were passive aggressive. They were in violation and needed to be moved and redirected. The cop was well with in the Use Of Force Model backed by even the the most liberal 9th district circuit court. Even California has a state statue that enforces a lawful order by a Police Officer. People need to accept that there are reactions to their actions. Lawful or not, you cant take them back.

    • Dave

      If it was all well and good, I assume the cop is still on the job.

  • US(S)A

    We have a right according to our Constitution to peacefully assemble and to address our grieveances towards this out of control government, but since the Bush Administration carried out the September 11th attacks (and now we have the Patriot act) and Owebama keeps the lies going…we don’t have this right anymore. I am glad I left the US(S)A.

    • What a joke

      We are all glad you left too but the only problem is you forgot your other buddies here!

    • Common sense rules

      We do have a right to assemble. Feel free to assemble on your private property any time.

      We do have a right to protest.

      We have a right to challenge the laws and the enforcement of those laws by the police in court.

      But, common sense tells you that you might want to follow the order of a police officer who is presumably enforcing a law. I’m personally glad we have police officers enforcing laws.

      Common sense also tells you that if someone is pointing a can of pepper spray at your face and gives you an order, you might want to consider the results of not following that order.

      Thanks for leaving. Please feel free to continue to pay taxes, though. We need your money.

      • Mike


      • Mike

        Are you suggesting that public areas of this country are not equally and proportionally owned and shared by all people or only select groups? The students who were sitting on campus of Berkley paid a very high tuition to be on that sidewalk and had constitutional rights to assemble. Making them outlaws to satisfy some fascist authoritative thug is unAmerican. Try selling that to every other country that we advocate the concepts of democracy to.

    • Don't forget

      the NAFTA superhighway.

  • See BS

    Or Anarchy Spray.

    • Mike

      Over reaching use of authority can only be seen as humorous by a cold blooded psychopathic, Machiavellian, narcissus, like yourself……………..

  • Citizen

    Again, here’s a statement of what happened: “UC Davis professor Nathan Brown gave a chilling account of what happened to David and other students: “When students covered their eyes with their clothing, police forced open their mouths and pepper-sprayed down their throats,” Brown said. “Several of these students were hospitalized.”
    Law enforcement way overstepping its authority. What a great example the U.S. is setting for the world.

  • Was only a kid at the time.

    Beats what happened at Kent’s State.

  • me

    Pepper spray is awesome.

    I say use it on everyone of those thugs.

  • Frank

    Keep up the good fight OWS! Don’t worry about the hypnotized that are against you. They have no will or purpose except maybe getting that large screen TV or that new snowmobile!

    • bobby

      and what is the purpose of OWS, Frank?

      • @Bobby

        To play the victim.
        To “get their message out there” …and they won’t stop until everyone agrees with them.
        To do anything to get a reaction out of people so they can say, “See! I toldya so!”
        To blame everyone else for their life instead of accepting responsibility.
        To demand rather than work for.
        To be a nuisance to EVERYONE and then babble on about their “right” to do so.
        …You get the point ;)

  • Sickening Moms

    I think pepper spray is whimpy and uncalled for. They should go back to clubs and kicking in teeth like they did to us in the 60’s and 70’s. All the power has shifted too far to the female side of the scale. These poor kids think the action to take is recording a video and showing it to mom. They can’t even fight back, let alone get out of a paper bag. Think about it people. Turn off the camera and let these darlings experience a real life not a hover life.

  • Land of the Entitled Babies

    You do not have a right to do whatever the hell you please. Where did this undeserved sense of entitlement come from?? If an officer tell you to do something, you do it. What are these freaks even “protesting” anyways? What are they “proving” by sitting with their arms linked like a bunch of first graders at story time? You all ought to be ashamed of yourselves. If the point of this “protest” is to get your message across, the hold up a sign and be respectful. We’re not going to listen or take you seriously if you continue to act like uncaged animals and provoke law enforcement until they react just so you can add that to you list of the world’s wrongdoings. You’re a bunch of crybabies with no purpose. 98% of the “99%” you claim to be fighting for can’t even stand you and want nothing to do with you or your “cause.” I’m embarrassed for all of you.

    • Mike

      What you propose iis an assumption that the police are always correct. Ever hear of the Metro Gang Task force? That is another example of were they proven to be on the wrong side of the law.

      • sickening

        Mike, Let the wimps fight back for themselves like everyone else. Keep the media and mom out of this.

      • Land

        Mike, what I propose is that across the country, the “peaceful protesters” have been damaging private property, attacking and raping people, mobbing, blocking traffic, squatting, disrupting business, etc. They’ve proven that they’re capable and more than willing to act like criminals because they’re desperate for attention. It’s honestly more of a temper tantrum than a true organized united attempt to spread “the message.” How many times should an officer have to ask you nicely and hold your hand? Given the violent and unpredictable behavior of your Occupy peers, if I were a cop you would get ONE chance to follow my orders before I MAKE you move.

        • insignificant

          @land…the pigs a$$ kisser…you better get a grip,eh?..”attacking,raping””???…you’ve gone off the deep end…everyone knows that thugs toss in undercover thugs at peaceful protests to cause unlawful behaviors to make ’em look bad…this trick has been used many times so the media can put out dis-info and make protesters look un civil and un lawful…

    • Land

      I apologize about the various spelling errors… In a bit of a fury.

      • bobby

        @Land- I couldn’t agree more. Well said

  • all republicans are stupid


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