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Oww, my eye!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012
The Star/Asia News Network

Of late, tear gas eye injuries have been in the spotlight abroad, and also, locally. Tear gas is a chemical warfare and riot control agent that has been in use since 1917. The most commonly used agent is CS gas, which is an irritant to skin and mucous membranes. It causes immediate and severe tearing, which can last for up to half an hour. It is very effective as a crowd control agent.

At room temperature, it is a white solid substance, and is easily converted into a gas when heated up by shooting it out of a gun.

CS gas can be easily washed out of the eye and skin with water. It is a mild acid, so eating alkaline agents like salt can help neutralise any ingested tear gas in our body.

The tear gas canisters themselves can cause serious injury to the eye and elsewhere if they are shot directly at a person.

After the gas has subsided, the tearing agents can still be present in solid form on the roads and sidewalks, and can be stirred up by wind or traffic.

Interestingly, animals like horses and dogs are not affected, and are often used by riot police when tear gas is used. There are usually no long term effects to your eyes after exposure to tear gas, although there have been reports of burns to the eye due to the heat of the tear gas agents when it was released from the canisters.

Sports injuries to the eye in Malaysia is very common due to our love of badminton and squash. Both are sports where the ball or shuttlecock come at us at very high speeds, and if it hits the eye, damage can be very severe.

To prevent such injuries, we should wear special protective eye wear that have hard-to-break frames and lenses. The lenses are made of shatter-proof polycarbonate, and can be made to any spectacle prescription.

Wearing your normal spectacles when playing is not enough as the frame or lens may shatter when the ball hits it, and the fragments may then enter your eye.

I do get funny looks when I play racquet games with my sports goggles, but it has prevented me from getting any eye injuries all these years. I have been hit by the ball in the face more than once, especially when playing doubles badminton.

Even famous sports stars like Edgar Davids and Janko Tipsarevic wear protective sports goggles while playing high level competitive football and tennis respectively.

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