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Protests over police brutality in the wake of the death of George Floyd have sprung up in each state and all around the world. Police in some areas have been using tear gas on protesters and some public health experts have spoken out against its use in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

An open letter that started at the University of Washington that was created with Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease specialist at UC San Francisco says tear gas is dangerous to use during the pandemic, because it could, “increase risk for COVID-19 by making the respiratory tract more susceptible to infection, exacerbating existing inflammation, and inducing coughing.” 1,288 public health professionals have signed the letter.

Because COVID-19 is a highly contagious respiratory illness, experts worry that exacerbating the lungs of protestors could have ill effects. David Eisenman, UCLA professor of medicine and public health told LAist, “During this time when we’re protesting police brutality, the use of tear gas is causing more harm in the way of spreading COVID. There is some culpability on the police for using this method, which increases the sneezing and increases the coughing and therefore increases the spread.”

Public health issues of racism and coronavirus are also linked.The letter also points out that white supremacy contributes to COVID-19, where black people are more likely to develop COVID-19, are diagnosed later, have higher rates of hospitalizations and death. The experts acknowledge that the protests are “as vital to the national public health and to the threatened health specifically of Black people in the United States.”

Read all our coverage on the protests against racism in One Green Planet:

Here’s what you can do:

Many organizations like Black Lives Matter, Color of Change, and the NAACP are working to empower black Americans and achieve justice for those impacted by racist systems.

Also, remember to register to vote if you haven’t already. This is one of the simplest ways to make your voice heard as a citizen.Here are some resources for you:

Places to Donate:

Petitions to Sign:

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For a more extensive resource list, please see the collection put together by Black Lives Matter.

Through this grief and anger, we must unite and work together to create the change we want to see. Let’s make sure no black child has to ever say these heartbreaking words ever again.

If you’re attending a protest, please be safe and careful and maintain social distancing, if possible. Check out our founder’s articles on #BlackLivesMatter: Killing Black Americans is a Public Health and Human Rights Crisis and 10 Inspiring Black Voices Diversifying the Environmental Movement.

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