A taser

While 15,000 electronic volts surging through the body from a stun gun seems frightening, a medical professor is advising that pepper spray is much more dangerous.

Speaking on CNC 3’s The Morning Brew, Dr Hariharan Seetaram, professor of Critical Care Medicine at the University of the West Indies says scientific studies have proven that tasers were safer than pepper spray once used in the proper way.

Since the announcement that the police service would be using tasers and pepper spray as non-lethal forms of subduing offenders, the public’s focus has been on the taser and the physical effects on the body.

Seetaram explained, “Incidents of morbidity and mortality from pepper spray which is an oleoresin capsicum resin which is what is being sprayed is higher than taser because the irritant, and many of our Caribbean population already have asthmas and wheezing and with the Sahara dust they are much more prone and it can trigger a very fatal asthmatic attack and it has also been known to cause lung problems and skin problems.”

Seetaram advised that pepper spray be used sparingly by law enforcement officers. While using the stun gun or pepper spray would have been much safer than what happened to American George Floyd, he said, “When you compare taser and pepper spray, the taser is safer as long as it is used in the proper way, the appropriate way and they get trained. Pepper spray should be sparingly used because you know I don’t think it is as safe as the taser and that is the scientific evidence and not from the blogs.” Seetaram said a taser releases a five-second burst of electricity that reaches a maximum voltage of 15,000 volts. However, Seetaram said scientific studies have not found any adverse effects in normal healthy humans.

”So if you have a short burst of a high voltage current, it will not capture the myocardium (heart muscle). So that is why it is actually in scientific studies it has been always safer to use.” However, he said if two law enforcement officers tased a person at the same time then that would be a problem. “Once tasers are actually implemented the law enforcement officers should know that it (they) cannot be continuously doing it.”

Scientists, he said, have recommended that once a person is reasonably controlled then they should find other measures to subdue the person.

However, Seetaram noted another issue was that if a person becomes neuromuscular paralyzed after becoming tased and suddenly collapses, he/she could suffer a head injury, fracture, or other forms of trauma. With regards to unhealthy persons, including cocaine addicts, he said there were conflicting studies on whether tasers could cause adverse health effects.

The medical professor recommended that law enforcement officers receive proper training in the use of tasers.