To sum up: the burning from so-called “pepper spray” is ten times more intense than that of the hottest peppers in existence, it can cause permanent respiratory, nerve, and eye damage, and in the mid-1990s was linked by the Justice Department to 70 deaths. Via Scientific American:
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Aa American pharmacist named Wilbur Scoville developed a scale to measure the intensity of a pepper’s burn. The scale puts sweet bell peppers at the zero mark and the blistering habanero at up to 350,000 Scoville Units. Commercial grade pepper spray leaves even the most painful of natural peppers (the Himalayan ghost pepper) far behind. It’s listed at between 2 million and 5.3 million Scoville units. The lower number refers to the kind of pepper spray that you and I might be able to purchase for self-protective uses. And the higher number? It’s the kind of spray that police use, the super-high dose given in the orange-colored spray used at UC-Davis.