The Israel Defense Forces have been waging war against rioters with a nonlethal — albeit truly putrid — product called skunk water, or just skunk since 2008. The spray, which was developed by Israeli firm Odortec, is said to be 100 percent organic and harmless, and consists of an extremely foul-smelling liquid with the viscosity of water that can be dispersed over a large area using a water cannon. Odortec says the overpowering stench of Skunk drives rioters away — and keeps them away, “effectively shutting down escalating situations.”
So what exactly is in Skunk, and is it really safe and nonlethal? According to Odortec’s Material Safety Data Sheet, Skunk is nothing more than a mixture of water, yeast and sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda. The MSDS sheet explains “at the pH level of sodium bicarbonate, the yeasts synthesize some amino acids causing heavy odor.”
Aside from the smell, there are some minor physical side effects, according to the MSDS sheet. Skunk can cause skin irritation; eyes redness and pain; and abdominal pain if ingested. But as an observer who’s been hit by a tear gas canister fired directly at him, Davies says Skunk could be a safer option. “From a perspective of my own personal safety, I’d rather be sprayed with an otherwise harmless, foul-smelling liquid than shot at,” he says.
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