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Pepper Spray's Effects on a Suspect's Ability to Breathe, Research in Brief

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2001
8 pages
Publication Series
This research brief reported on a medical research study at the University of California-San Diego, investigating whether Oleoresin Capsicum (OC), the active ingredient in pepper spray, by itself or in combination with positional restraint caused, respiratory damage that could lead to injury or death.
This research assessed the cardiovascular effects of a commercial OC spray that is widely used by law enforcement agencies. It also examined the effect of spray and positional restraint on blood pressure and how the effects of OC were influenced by other factors such as body weight, size, asthma, pulmonary diseases, inhaler, or a history of smoking. The study concluded that, in a laboratory setting, OC spray inhalation, combined with positional restraint, posed no significant risks in terms of respiratory and pulmonary complications. The authors of the brief believed this study should reassure law enforcement personnel that it would be clinically safe to employ forceful measures when necessary and that relations between local agencies and communities would improve through knowledge that enforcement techniques like the use of OC spray had been rigorously tested. Lastly, they thought that for public policy, this study would provide a scientific basis for finding safer methods of restraint and for assessing force techniques and custody restraint methods. 6 graphs, 3 notes, glossary, and reading suggestions

Date Published: December 1, 2001