Pharmacists advise MTR to shut stations for a week to clear deadly tear gas

Local | 21 Aug 2019 4:26 pm

A pharmacists’ group has urged the MTR Corporation to shut any station that has been affected by tear gas for at least a week before cleaning crews are even allowed in, to protect the health of workers and the public, RTHK reports.
The Hong Kong Pharmacists Union  warned that the “shocking and dangerous” use of tear gas by police in residential areas and inside an MTR stations could put civilians and police at risk of serious long-term health problems such as cancer or even death.
Police controversially fired tear gas inside the Kwai Fong MTR station on August 11, and have been heavily criticized for using the chemical weapon in residential areas.
The pharmacists said tear gas is not meant to be used in enclosed areas, because it releases dangerous chemicals such as carbon monoxide, chlorine and acetylene.
Chairperson, Jenny Cheung said the key concern is the potential buildup of deadly chemicals without adequate ventilation.
“For example we know carbon monoxide when used in an enclosed area, a high concentration may cause suffocation or death. It’s very dangerous,” she warned, adding that tear gas use in enclosed areas may also cause panic and trigger stampedes.
Cheung said it takes at least five days for the chemicals to break down to relatively safer substances.
“We think the management should close the station for a week, and then let staff in for thorough decontamination and cleansing afterwards”, she said.
She added that it’s possible that the Kwai Fong MTR is still contaminated, 10 days after the tear gas was used.
“The tear gas is specially designed… the dust can disperse greatly… If it is fired indoors, it could adhere on everything your eyes can see, and I don’t think the management has cleaned everything,'' she said.
Even out in the open, Cheung said people exposed to tear gas could suffer from a variety of long-term health problems, such as complications in their circulatory and respiratory systems.
She warned they may also have a higher chance of developing cancer.
Even police who are equipped with full gas masks aren’t completely protected, Cheung warned.
She recommends people whose homes are affected by tear gas to breathe through a towel soaked in a solution of baking powder, with five parts baking soda to 95 parts water.
She says this may help to neutralise the acidic gas.
Cheung also said children and the elderly should be especially careful, as they are more vulnerable to tear gas.

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