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Woman sues city of Portland over tear gas effects

The lawsuit claims she experienced severe menstrual problems after tear gas was repeatedly used outside her home during protests in summer 2020.
Credit: AP
Federal officers use crowd control munitions to disperse Black Lives Matter protesters outside the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse on Tuesday, July 21, 2020, in Portland, Ore. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

PORTLAND, Ore. — A woman is suing the city of Portland, claiming that the Portland Police Bureau's (PPB) use of tear gas on protesters in the summer of 2020 caused reproductive and menstrual problems.

Liv Vasquez filed a lawsuit Sunday claiming the city of Portland "engaged in an abnormally dangerous activity" when they used tear gas on people in the city more than 100 times during the spring and summer. The lawsuit claims the gas was fired outside her home on SE 12th and Morrison, and caused pain, severe spotting and cramps — all so bad they interfered with her life.

In an interview with KGW News, Vasquez said she first started noticing problems when she was talking daily walks during the early days of the pandemic. 

"I would get about halfway around the block and literally be doubled over with cramps," she said. "I had never had cramps like this before. Then I started noticing spotting, which is another thing that I have not really experienced before, especially to this degree." 

She tracked her symptoms and tried to figure out what had changed in her life. 

"My diet hadn't changed, and I was home all the time, so my environment hadn't really changed. The only difference was tear gas being set off night after night for months at a time," Vasquez said.

She says she started to notice the difference in her cycles in late June. 

"At that point we had been dealing with tear gas for a few weeks, I think. And I knew that that had to be the culprit."

RELATED: What Portland police has changed in the year since the murder of George Floyd and the resulting civil unrest

A study by the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland released in May shows reported changes to menstrual cycles of hundreds of people. Kaiser surveyed more than 2,000 people of various ages and health conditions about the impacts of tear gas in Portland, and 94% of the 2,200 who responded to the survey reported a health impact from tear gas. More than 1,200 people sought out some type of care after being exposed.

Vasquez made a TikTok video about her experience that went viral. She said many other people reached out to her with similar experiences. Vasquez said she spent months visiting several new doctors, and ultimately ended up moving to a new home miles away from the community she loved. 

"I love Portland so much, and it felt like all of a sudden I was living in a toxic waste dump. It was unrecognizable. And it kind of broke my heart." 

She says her symptoms abated when she moved.

RELATED: Portlanders recall last year's cuts when eyeing new police funding

Vasquez is seeking $10,000 in damages, and a judgment that the city was negligent in its use of tear gas. 

"Tear gas is a weapon of war, and it should almost never be used in highly populated areas where people live, where pets live, where there are senior care facilities," said her lawyer, Michael Fuller, in an interview with KGW. "The city of Portland was definitely negligent, if not reckless, in its deployment of tear gas in the summer of 2020."

PPB stopped using tear gas in September 2020 after Mayor Ted Wheeler banned it

The city declined to comment, citing a policy not to comment on pending litigation.