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How Safe Is The TASER

By KJ Mullins     Sep 24, 2007 in Health
When one is shocked with a TASER some think that while it is painful it's fairly safe. It would seem that it has to be safe after all police departments TASER officers as part of training. Just how safe is the TASER gun really?
The TASER barb can damage soft tissue and organs with a shock lasting as little as a second.
The amount of damage a person endures as a result of a taser blast depends on several factors, body size, body fat, where the taser hit the skin and general health.
Subtle damage to a person's internal organs may not become apparent right away, it can take months and at times years before the full damage is known.
In a study done by the Air Force on the effects of the TASER and swine it found that the stun gun lead to heart damage in the pigs. The study found that enzyme Troponin T spiked in the blood after a blast. This enzyme is the body's signal that the heart has been injured. Also found in the study was the pigs suffered from high levels of blood acid. This is a potentially life threatening heart condition called acidosis.
"It's a red flag," says Dr. Charles Rackley, a respected cardiologist at Georgetown University Hospital.
CBS News showed the findings to Rackley.
Asked what his diagnosis would be if a patient came to him with these blood levels, Rackley says, "My initial impression would be that meant some heart muscle damage, or heart attack."
In the study the pigs were shocked 18 times, while most people are only hit once. None of the pigs died as a direct result of the experiment. Still the study shows that blood levels could result in emergency medical conditions with the use of the weapon.
"The combination of the acidosis as well as the heart muscle damage would put this patient at high risk of developing ventricular fibrillation or sudden cardiac death," says Rackely.
The 50,000 voltage that goes through a body when the barbs hit have caused deaths. Jan. 31, 2005 41 year old Jeffrey Turner was tasered during his arrest for trespassing. Turner was a good sized man, over 6 foot tall and weighing more than 200 pounds, the blast of the TASER subdued him. Later in his Lucas County jail cell he become unruly and was again tasered. He was zapped four times and was subdued enough to be handcuffed. He also stopped breathing and was pronounced dead at a nearby Toledo hospital.
When the jolt of a taser hits the body it interrupts brain to muscle communication for at least five seconds. That's how suspects are immobilized.
Since 2001 over 100 people have died in the United States and Canada after having had a taser used on them.
The potential dangers have some groups including Amnesty International concerned with their use.
"We have three concerns," said William Schulz, the head of Amnesty's U.S. office. "Tasers are being used too frequently, they are being used against inappropriate subjects, and they may be killing people."
The company says their product is safe.
Even those who are certain of the safety of TASER aren't as sure when it comes to people who have heart conditions, are drug abusers or are pregnant. There haven't been enough studies on some sectors of society that may come in contact with the immobilizing instrument.
"There is not a comprehensive, broad-ranging, scientifically peer-reviewed study that looks at all of the issues," said Tom Barrett, a former Coast Guard admiral and vice president at the Potomac Institute, a Capitol-area think tank that completed a report last week on stun guns. "They're relatively safe, but there's some gaps in the science that need closure."
With more and more police departments using the TASER gun further tests should be used to see what long term effects come from have the jolts blast through a body.
More about Taser, Dangers, Heart disease
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