Story at a glance:
- About 900 women say police tear gas affected their menstrual cycles.
- Trans men are experiencing cramps again.
- The pain is strong enough that some believed they needed to seek urgent care.
Research suggests that people exposed to tear gas during the series of Portland, Ore., protests last summer are dealing with some of the worst menstrual cycles of their lives.
The Guardian reported that 900 women complained of intense cramping and heavy bleeding, and it all correlates to them being exposed to the same tear gas.
However, an online survey of more than 2,200 people say the effects are only temporary, Britta Torgrimson-Ojerio, a researcher at Kaiser Permanente Northwest and the lead author of the study, said.
Abnormal menstruation and tear gas have been speculatively discussed among protesters on social media for some time, but this research is the first published, peer-reviewed study that confirms a link.
Last year, female participants in racial justice protests against police violence in Portland; Seattle; Minneapolis; Rochester, N.Y., and other cities told media outlets like Newsweek, NPR and Vice News how they suspect the tear gas affects reproductive systems: unexpected bleeding, unusually painful cramps and other disruptions of their typical menstrual cycles.
Twenty-six protesters between the ages of 17 and 43 have told Oregon Public Broadcast that their tear gas exposure has them experiencing cramps that feel like sharp rocks and large blood clots.
"We're not paranoid. This isn't a coincidence. Something's going on," one protester told Oregon Public Broadcasting.
Scientists don’t know why tear gas would have this effect, but the alleged effects are so potent, five transgender men who are on testosterone, which is supposed to prevent menstruation, told the OPB that they have begun to experience cramps and bleeding again.
According to some respondents on the Kaiser Permanente Northwest survey, these cramps are severely painful, so much so that medical treatment at an urgent care was thought to be the solution.
However, this new study published in BMC Public Health has some limitations as the results are based on an anonymous online survey, meaning researchers could not independently confirm the respondents' identities, Torgrimson-Ojerio said.
"Any time people are reporting big changes in their body and their health, it is concerning," she said.
Researchers were unable to follow up with respondents about how their lives were affected by the symptoms they experienced.
"We can't say anything definitively about how bad this was."
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