The Association of Greek Chemists sent a letter to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday warning of the hazards of tear gas use as to disperse crowds during unrest at protest rallies.
In the letter, the association urges Tsipras to consider banning the use of “dangerous chemicals that linger in the atmosphere of the urban environment for days, harming the quality of life of all citizens.”
The warning came in the wake of accusations that police used an excessive amount of tear gas in response to violence at Sunday's demonstration in Athens against the Prespes name deal.
“We understand the difficulties faced by police, especially when a section of protesters cause damages or act violently toward people, but we believe that a different response to this issue needs to be explored, all the more so when the consequences are suffered by the majority of peaceful demonstrators as well,” the scientists said.
The association said that the chemical used for crowd control in Greece as CS gas, a cyanocarbon that while generally accepted as non-lethal is classified as a weapon that can damage the lungs, heart and liver. It can become especially toxic if it is sprayed directly at a person from a distance of less than 5 meters, if used in large quantities and if it affects vulnerable groups like children or elderly people, the letter said.
It also warned of the risks to the wider environment, saying that extensive use of tear gas, especially in combination with certain climatic conditions, “can result in concentrations of these chemicals in the broader urban network.”
“We mention all this so that you understand the toll of using such a medium for rapid crowd disbursement, a toll that significantly damages the quality of life of many citizens who are within its immediate scope or in the broader vicinity,” the letter adds.