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Acid attack guidance

Katie Coyne27/07/2017 - 14:00

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Corrosive liquids on sale
Corrosive liquids on sale

With two more acid attacks this week in the capital and news that London police officers would be carrying emergency acid response kits, an EHO has entered the fray.

Former police officer turned EHO, Philip Harris, has created guidance for pubs and bars on what to do if an acid attack occurs and what substances to be on the look out for.

Mr Harris, principal environmental health practitioner at Crawley Borough Council, became involved after an acid attack at a local nightclub and put together guidance for other premises in the area. Since then the guidance has been shared to neighbouring boroughs.

However, Mr Harris would like to see retailers take an interest in the rising number of acid attacks – Met Police figures show in 2015 there were 262 acid attacks which jumped to 458 in 2016 - and make some changes.

Mr Harris said he was on the way to give a presentation on acid attacks when he decided to pop into a local store to see how readily available these chemicals are.

‘It was quite surprising what was for sale on the bottom shelf that kids could pick up. There was a Rhino drain blocker in a bottle with child proof lock and was also pre-bagged. It says [on the bottle] it bulldozes it’s way through everything – grease and fat, hair and soap.

‘Well what is the body made of? They are already saying it will eat its way through the face and body.’

Mr Harris explained that the term acid attack is a nisnomer as strong alkalines are also be used.

He asked the store manager – of the national chain – why the products containing strong chemicals were displayed on the bottom shelf and was told that it was a nationwide decision so all over the country it was the same.

He added: ‘It’s got to be re-thought if they [chemicals] are going to be a popular in the use as a weapon. How are we going to restrict its sale?’

‘I am trying to consult with how we could get the retailers to voluntarily do something like remove them from the bottom shelf so people have to actually ask for it – it would make them more difficult to buy.’

The sale of the chemicals contained within the brands would need to be restricted rather than the brands themselves.

He added it was an extremely difficult issue as the corrosive substances come in different forms and not just liquids – gels, granules, flakes – making them easy to conceal.

Other ideas as to how to limit their availability would be to ask for ID for proof of age when purchasing, much like in the sale of alcohol.


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