How Long Does Pepper Spray Last (And Why)?

Exact Answer: 12-18 months

Oleoresin Capsaicin spray, or more commonly known as pepper spray, is made up of a compound called the lachrymatory agents responsible for its burning sensation that leads to temporary blindness. It was mainly innovated for defense purposes in policing, crowd riots, or self-defense.

Pepper sprays may also cause shortness of breath and temporary discomfort. It is used in dog and bear repellents, personal defense spray, etc. Pepper sprays are composed of capsaicinoids derived from the oily resins of chili pepper.

Capsaicin is one of the major capsaicinoids that cause the hot sensation of peppers. There are different formulas and intensities of pepper sprays that determines how effectively it works. In addition to the capsaicinoids, pepper sprays also contain rubbing alcohol or hydrocarbon as a carrier solvent.

How Long Does Pepper Spray Last?

Pepper spray is an effective self-defense tool that can be used by anyone. It can last for up to 12 to 18 months depending on the longevity of its canister. The main ingredient of a pepper spray, i.e. Capsaicinoids does not degrade over time, however, the canister becomes much damaged to perform spraying.

The effects of pepper spray can be seen for 20 to 90 minutes. It can cause eye irritation and redness for up to 24 hours. Prolonged exposure to capsaicin can also result in desensitization.

Pepper sprays with unique formulations can even have a shelf life of up to 4 years if not used even for test spraying. However, all types of aerosol products lose pressure over time. It is recommended to change the canister periodically to increase the shelf life of a pepper spray.

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Pepper sprays upon expiration lose their chemical potency and dispensing pressure. Some brands have created formulas that last longer, however, the durability of a pepper spray mainly depends on its canister.

Some health effects induced by Pepper spray include:

  • Red and watery eyes
  • Dry cough and throat burning
  • Chest pain and panic attack
  • Loss of consciousness and dizziness
  • Blisters and burns on the area of contact

In summary:

CharacteristicsDuration
Shelf-Life12-18 months
Lasting effect20-90 minutes

Why Does Pepper Spray Last So Long?

The durability and lasting effect of pepper spray are determined by several factors. The lasting effect of pepper spray is mainly determined by its formulation. The concentration of capsaicin varies with different pepper spray manufacturers.

Law enforcement agents usually use pepper spray containing 5 – 10 % capsaicin. The heat generated by such sprays is measured in the Scoville heat units (SHU) scale. According to this scaling system:

  • Law enforcement Pepper spray measures between 500,000 – 2,000,000 SHU.
  • Bell Peppers measure 0 SHU.
  • Jalapeño Pepper measures 2500 – 5000 SHU.

The greater the SHU value, the longer will be its lasting effect. On the other hand, the shelf life of a pepper spray primarily depends on its bottle or canister. Continuous or frequent use of the bottle might result in a dysfunctional canister. It is a common hazard for almost all aerosol sprays.

The canisters become ineffective after a few usages because the aerosol propellant leaks out and makes spraying a difficult task. Such leakages are observed in canisters of different sizes, but more in those of smaller sizes. It is recommended to test spray every 90 to 180 days before the pepper spray reaches its expiration date.

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Conclusion

Pepper spray can be described as an aerosol spray that contains inflammatory substances such as Capsaicinoids. It is a popular tool used for self-defense and law enforcement. Its effects cause a series of reactions and may even lead to unconsciousness.

A pepper spray has a shelf life of 12 to 18 months when stored under proper conditions. Its expiry mainly indicates a damaged canister or spray bottle caused by the leakage of aerosol propellant present with its key ingredients. Some brands have also developed modern designs and formulations to increase the shelf life of pepper sprays.

The lasting effect of pepper spray can be anything between 20 to 90 minutes. Its effects are caused due to presence of capsaicin as the main ingredient. Stong formulations have a longer-lasting effect and cause severe health consequences.

References

  1. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=3JvaAAAAMAAJ&oi=fnd&dq=pepper+spray&ots=0u5GRYuy_D&sig=snr09G1gp6NLomOAyTkON5LeuYI
  2. https://www.astm.org/DIGITAL_LIBRARY/JOURNALS/FORENSIC/PAGES/JFS14999J.htm
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