Is pepper spray safe? That's a good question and one that gets asked quite a bit when people are considering non-lethal self-defense measures. Unfortunately it is a question that does not have a cut and dry answer. To answer this question let us first answer a more basic and rudimentary question and that is "what is pepper spray?"
Pepper spray is a non-lethal defensive spray made of an active ingredient called OC (Oleoresin Capsicum). Oleoresin Capsicum is a natural ingredient and is basically the same ingredient that makes hot peppers "hot". The "hotness" of various peppers is measured using a system of measurement called Scoville units. Have you ever bitten into a Habanero pepper? Those are crazy hot and probably made your eyes water and nose run as the spiciness effects your mucus membranes. Could you imagine crushing that habanero up and rubbing it in your eyes and nose? Habaneros are a pretty hot pepper and measure about 200,000 Scoville units. For comparison's sake, pure capsaicin ranks about 16,000,000! Most commercial pepper sprays that are available for civilian purchase rank about 2,5000,000. What this Oleoresin Capsicum does once it contacts the mucus membranes of an attacker is felt immediately. The capillaries of the eyes will burn and dilate and cause temporary blindness, inflammation of the attacker's breathing tubes will cause difficulty in breathing and the overall tremendous burning sensation should last anywhere up to 30 minutes, giving you plenty of time to flee the area and call the police.