What are pepper sprays and how do they work?
Pepper spray is a specialized type of mace which comes in canisters, and although it looks like something out of a spy film, it's actually legal to carry one on your person. The US government even uses them for law enforcement purposes.
The active ingredient in pepper spray is oleoresin capsicum, which is extracted from hot peppers. Oils are then mixed with alcohol or butane to produce the spray.
When people think of pepper spray, they usually picture an aerosol canister.
The propellant in these cansisters is either powder (such as in bear and dog repellent) or a liquid.
The spray can enter your eyes and mucous membranes which causes your eyes to slam shut and swell up. It also irritates the respiratory system causing severe coughing fits. In most cases, people who are sprayed must go away from the scene until it wears off.
Pepper spray is actually a type of chemical compound called an inflammatory agent. It does not actually damage your tissue, but it has the effect of causing intense pain and inflammation, which is why it makes for such an effective weapon in self-defense.
Pepper spray is made up of an oily liquid that contains a large amount of non-polar molecules. This means that it does not dissolve in water -- which is why your eyes will swell up, but not your skin.
Pepper spray is usually dispensed in the form of an aerosol spray, which means it contains particles that are suspended in air. When you spray pepper spray, it forms droplets in the air and because of the large amount of non-polar molecules present in it, they stick to your body and face.
When the particles stick to your body, they release a chemical called capsaicinoids which causes an intense burning sensation on your skin, muscles and eyes. This is why you will want to go away from the situation until it has worn off or wash it off with water if you can.
Pepper spray has numerous uses to include self-defense against humans or animals. They are also employed in law enforcement and corrections settings, where they use pepper spray in riot control situations.