Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Epidemiology and Population Health

Degree Program

Public Health Sciences with a specialization in Epidemiology, PhD

Committee Chair

Taylor, Kira

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Peiper, Nicholas

Committee Member

Peiper, Nicholas

Committee Member

Baumgartner, Richard

Committee Member

Gaskins, Jeremy

Committee Member

Ali, T'shura

Author's Keywords

Tear gas; pepper spray; crowd-control; menstrual function; menstrual cycle; reproductive epidemiology


During the racial justice protests of 2020 and 2021, crowd control chemical irritants (referred to as “tear gas”) were deployed against protesters, after which there were anecdotal reports of altered menstrual cycles among exposed individuals. There is only one peer reviewed published study on tear gas exposure and menstrual health. This study examined whether tear gas exposure was associated with menstrual cycle outcomes among women attending the 2020-2021 protests. Data from 103 women who attended racial justice protests in 2020 and 2021 were collected through an online questionnaire. Data included protest attendance, acute symptoms of tear gas exposure, whether medical care was sought for acute effects of tear gas exposure, and menstrual cycle outcomes. The associations between proxy measurements of tear gas exposure and menstrual cycle symptoms were determined through linear regression, adjusted for covariates. The proxies for tear gas exposure were number of protests attended; total number of acute symptoms of exposure; acute symptoms experienced in specific organ systems (eye, lung, skin, heart); and seeking medical care after exposure (yes/no). The outcome variables were total number of menstrual cycle outcomes, and two factors identified through exploratory factory analysis: factor 1 – intense outcomes (heavy bleed, long bleed, short bleed, long cycle, irregular cycles, and period pain) and factor 2 – milder outcomes (light bleed, short bleed, and short cycle). All models were adjusted for age, race, ethnicity, education, income, and trying to conceive. Higher protest attendance (> 9) had significant positive associations with total number of menstrual cycle symptoms (β: 2.12, 95% CI: 1.12, 3.11) and factor 1 (β: 1.22, 95% CI: 0.79, 1.65). Seeking medical care for tear gas exposure had a significant inverse association with factor 1 (β: -0.95, 95% CI: -1.56, -0.34), but was not associated with total number of menstrual cycle symptoms or factor 2. The total number of acute symptoms and acute symptoms in specific organ systems were not significantly associated with menstrual cycle outcomes. Results may be confounded by stress experienced during protests. Additional research is needed to determine whether there are long-term menstrual cycle and reproductive health outcomes after exposure to tear gas.