What are ‘pepper balls,’ used by UD police to disperse students?

UD Students crowd Lowes Street

Several University of Dayton students told News Center 7 they thought police had used tear gas to break up a large crowd on Lowe’s Street. The university says what police used were actually “pepper balls.”

A pepper ball is typically a projectile filled with pepper spray, usually launched from a device similar to a pistol. Police often carry them on their utility belts. According to a company that manufactures pepper balls, they are designed to create a 12-foot cloud with an irritant designed to affect the eyes, nose and throat of the people who are hit by the cloud. The company, PepperBall, says the effects wear off within 15 minutes. It is not clear if the items used by police were from Pepperball.com.

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Tear gas and pepper spray have similar effects within the first few minutes of being used. The National Institute of Health defines both as chemical irritants. Tear gas is made from man-made compounds, and in military terms is often referred to as CS for the active ingredient 2-chlorobenzalmalonitrile. Pepper spray is derived from capsaicin, which is derived from peppers, and is referred to OC or PAVA, depending on composition. The NIH conducted a study worldwide on effectiveness.

One injury was reported in the confrontation with police. That person was injured by a thrown bottle. There are no reports of sustained injuries from the pepper balls.