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Millions in Hong Kong Have Been Exposed to Tear Gas Since June

Locals are feeling the effects of long-term tear gas exposure after police have fired as many as 6,000 canisters at protesters.

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Photo illustration: 731; Photos: Getty; Bloomberg

King Ng, once a healthy, 72-year-old retired mechanical engineer, now suffers from headaches so severe he often can’t sleep. He’s taken two weeks’ worth of antibiotics for an upper respiratory infection, yet his throat is still itchy and dry and he has a lingering cough.

Three months ago, Ng inhaled tear gas through the closed—but not airtight—windows of his second-floor apartment. Hong Kong police have used tear gas to quell pro-democracy protests almost every weekend and occasionally on weeknights since June 12. They’ve fired nearly 6,000 rounds in total, according to a tally of figures released in police briefings, in areas home to as much as 88% of Hong Kong’s 7.4 million residents.