CR Gas: combat-class chemical weapon, made in the USA

People recovering cannisters in Tahrir and indep news outlets are reporting that the military may be using CR gas, not regular tear gas, on protesters. It’s causing side effects (like spitting blood), unseen in the January wave of protests.  [Update: I posted this last night and then took it down because someone Tweeted saying it was something else, a variant of CN gas, which seems to be less carcinogenic. Does anyone have verification?

But I’m putting this post back up: there are still reports from the square that it’s CR gas.]  According to Wikipedia this stuff is a suspected carcinogen, one reason its use is banned in the United States.Yet it is made (for export?) in the USA. Further (still from Wikipedia): “The U.S. military classification for this chemical agent is combat class chemical weapon.” And also: if a space is poorly ventilated, a lethal dose can be inhaled in minutes.
Bikyamasr adds: “The company producing the gas being used in Egypt, Combined Tactical Systems of Jamestown, Pennsylvania in the United States, refused to respond to Bikyamasr.com requests for information pertaining to expired canisters and its effects on people.” (Click the link inside the quote to browse CTS’ impressive “non-lethal munitions” catalogue.)   An interesting ProPublica backgrounder on U.S. State Department approval of “dual-purpose” (military and civilian) crowd-control gas exports to Egypt, written back in February, is here.

Despite the reports that the cannisters are past their expiration date, Youm7 reports (which may be even more worrying) that they were manufactured in August 2010 for use before 2015.  Which means they were sold to Egypt exactly when?

Call your congresspeople, folks! And the White House.  In the past, our elected leaders have had strong opinions about a ruler using combat-grade chemical weapons on his own population.  There’s also a petition to the company’s CEO circulating online; consider signing, for what it’s worth.

Last night, cartoonist Carlos Latuff was already on the case. More anger than wit here, but that’s understandable: the moment seems to call for direct projectiles.

[This was around 2 or 3am.  Meanwhile Naguib Suweiris’ independent station ON-TV, between cheese commercials and interviews with Tahrir veterans and the mother and sister of an Alexandria martyr, was showing nonstop political ads for the elections scheduled for one week from today.  Does anyone still think these will happen?]

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4 thoughts on “CR Gas: combat-class chemical weapon, made in the USA

  1. Please refer to something other then Wikipedia. That is incomplete source on CR. Further more, CR has some less toxic effects in some areas, where CS has less toxic in others areas.
    All “gases” type sprays or anything else are all referred to in many topics as chemical weapons. Pepper spray can also be referred to chemical weapons. It is the degree of where they are in that class that is important. Whether it was CS/CN/CR or anything else, it is important to remember these things: constant exposure without military masks, or no masks at all. Density of how these tear gas type chemicals are used. In a enclosed area, or a lot in open area can make huge differences. CS/CR will burn your skin. It will burn mucous membranes, and re-exposure will cause more damage. Do not use vinegar to help this, it can produce more problems. vinegar is an acid, so are the particles within CS/CR. Once exposed you can become more sensitive to re-exposure, and sometimes you may become desensitized to the smell, but it will still do more damage. Sneezing, throwing up, not being able to breathe, panic when breathing is restricted, throat inflammation, eyes swelling and being affected and etc are all symptoms. Do not smoke after being exposed to tear gas, or even pepper spray. It will do more harm.

    • Thank you thank you, and we need facts more facts whoever has them. Friends in Tahrir report a new wave of gas a little over an hour ago. One writes: “I have seen more bravery in the past 2 days than in my entire life.”

  2. So far as this former chemical officer is aware, there is no military CR gas designation. This may be some commercial name, but no such official designation exists. CS is a standard riot control agent that many, many countries use. CS is sometimes used in combat situations where non-lethal munitions are useful, but isn’t controlled legally in the same way, nor is it prohibited by treaty. CN gas was formerly a standard military agent, and somewhat more potent than CS, but still not a controlled lethal agent.

    In any event, the correspondent here is plenty overwrought about something that is to be expected in a full blown civil conflict situation. Yeah the Egyptian regime is contemptible, but not for this. Given that reports from both sides are likely to be overblown for effect, a healthy dose of skepticism of both is in order.

  3. @Mr. Sweet: I am not a correspondent, of course. But here’s the Guardian’s take today: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/nov/23/egyptian-military-teargas-tahrir-square
    They do mention CR. Here’s their earlier piece, which focuses on the company in Pennsylvania: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/nov/21/tahrir-square-us-teargas-used-egypt?fb=native&CMP=FBCNETTXT9038
    Your “healthy skepticism” is complacency by another name. Particularly since the “full blown civil conflict situation” you accept as a given was entirely avoidable (something I hope to write about soon).

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