Any of a group of substances, most often synthetic organic halogen compounds, that irritate the mucous membranes of the eyes, causing a stinging sensation and tears. They may also irritate the upper respiratory tract, causing coughing, choking, and general debility. Tear gas was first used in warfare in World War I, but since its effects are short-lasting and rarely disabling, it came into use by law-enforcement agencies as a means of dispersing mobs, disabling rioters, and flushing out armed suspects without the use of deadly force.
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Structures that produce, distribute, and carry away tears. An almond-shaped gland above the outer corner of each eye secretes tears between the upper eyelid and the eyeball. Tears moisten and lubricate the conjunctiva (the membrane that lines the eyelid and covers the white of the eye) and then flow into the barely visible openings (near the inner corners of the eyelids) of the tear ducts, which lead to the nasal cavity. Oil (from sebaceous glands on the edge of the eyelid) keeps tears from spilling out unless secretion increases because of crying or a reflex triggered by stimuli such as eye irritation, bright lights, or spicy foods.
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