NBC Weapons: Military Grade Chili



March 28, 2010: India is using a native chili plant (the bhut jolokia) for a new crowd control grenade design. Bhut jolokia is considered the "hottest" chili available (one million on the Scoville scale.) The active ingredient (chemical element) in chili is capsaicin, and pure capsaicin is 15 million on the Scoville scale. Military and police grade pepper spray is usually about five million on the Scoville scale. The Jalapeño Pepper, which is commonly used in Western foodstuffs, is only 8,000 on the Scoville scale.

The bhut jolokia chili plant grows in Bangladesh, and India's northeast. Pure capsaicin is extracted from plants (several species, besides chilis) that contain it, and then used for sprays and grenades. The capsaicin burns the eyes and skin, and makes breathing difficult.

The news media in India played up the use of bhut jolokia for a new riot control grenade. But, in reality, bhut jolokia is but one of several sources of pure capsaicin used in these weapons. Normally considered a non-lethal weapon, capsaicin-based gases (in spray or grenade form), can be fatal if the victim is not robust, and a lot of capsaicin is ingested.


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