"Imagine the worst, most foul thing you have ever smelled" – protestors sprayed with crowd-control chemical report severe symptoms

Last Friday, students at a pro-Palestinian rally at Columbia University were allegedly sprayed with a foul substance called The Skunk. The Columbia Spectator reported that individuals disguised as pro-Palestine protestors carried out the spraying. "Eighteen students reported a putrid smell during or after the protest, 10 reported physical symptoms such as burning eyes, headaches, and nausea—with three having sought medical attention—and eight reported damage to their personal belongings," stated the paper. The NY Police Department is investigating the incident as a hate crime, according to Gothamist.

One protestor who was sprayed said on Twitter that she can't get the smell off her:

48 hours since I was sprayed: have washed my hair over 9 times (with multiple shampoos) and the skunk will not come out. Still nauseous, fatigued, and my endometriosis symptoms are awful. Dealing with severe chronic pain.

72 hours since i was sprayed w/ skunk on campus: zero appetite, keep on throwing up, and i feel terrible. very fatigued and having trouble sleeping. skunk has not come out of my hair after 11 showers.

The Skunk is a crowd-control chemical manufactured by Odortec, a private Israeli company. The Who Profits Research Center says, "The Skunk mist, which is fired from a water cannon, is usually yellow and leaves a stench of sewage in the mouths, hair and clothes of the sprayed people – a stench very difficult to remove."

The Israel Defense Forces was the first customer to buy The Skunk. Odortec now sells it to "law enforcement agencies worldwide, specifically American local police departments," as reported by Wikipedia.

Here's how one BBC reporter described The Skunk:

"Imagine the worst, most foul thing you have ever smelled. An overpowering mix of rotting meat, old socks that haven't been washed for weeks – topped off with the pungent waft of an open sewer. . .Imagine being covered in the stuff as it is liberally sprayed from a water cannon. Then imagine not being able to get rid of the stench for at least three days, no matter how often you try to scrub yourself clean."

A Reuters' reporter similarly described it:

Imagine taking a chunk of rotting corpse from a stagnant sewer, placing it in a blender and spraying the filthy liquid in your face. Your gag reflex goes off the charts and you can't escape, because the nauseating stench persists for days.[7]

The BBC reports that Odortec sells a "special soap to counter the effects," of The Skunk but it is only available to law enforcement, so police can neutralize the stench if they are accidentally exposed. "Members of the public do not have this option. However, one photographer says tomato ketchup serves as an antidote. If you rub a surface that has been exposed to skunk with ketchup, and then wash it off, the smell will apparently become fainter."