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Acid and chemical attacks

Acid attack refers to the premeditated act of throwing corrosive acid on the face and body, with the intent to disfigure, torture, or kill the victim. The acid causes lifelong scarring, physical disfigurement, and in some cases, permanent disability including blindness and immobility.

What to do if you are the victim of an attack, or if you witness one

Burns caused by acid, alkaline or caustic chemicals can be very damaging and need immediate medical attention. Make sure you know what to do in an attack.

It is important to ring 999 immediately – try to provide the operator with as much information as you can.

FAQ

There has been an acid attack, someone has had acid thrown over them what do I do?

Call 999 immediately. Anyone attacked by acid will need emergency medical treatment and the Ambulance service must be called straight away. While making this call please ask the emergency call operator to also inform the police so we can gather evidence and begin our investigations.  The fire service may also be needed to help to identify the chemical used. 

Avoid direct contact

  • Don’t become another casualty. Avoid direct contact with the fluid. This includes breathing in any fumes.

Flush with water

  • Flush the burn or wound for around 20 minutes with large amounts of water to remove the chemical and cool the affected area.
  • The priority is to remove the chemical, (not neutralise) from the casualty as quickly as possible as burning will continue until all of the chemical has gone.
  • While flushing the skin, care must be taken to prevent the water flowing over unaffected areas as this will spread the damage.
  • Do not allow acid to enter the nose or mouth as it is important that the casualty’s airway is clear. Flush these areas first to limit damage.  Take off contaminated clothing to remove the chemical and to make it easier to flush affected skin, but take great care not to pull clothing over the head. Instead, consider cutting off clothing prevent the spread of the contamination of the chemical even further.
  • Remove contaminated clothing and jewellery

Don’t cover burns or wipe

  • Don’t cover acid burns with bandages or burns dressings and do not try to wipe the acid off the skin using a damp cloth or neutralise it with soda ash, as this can cause more harm.

Chemical burn to the eyes

  • Hold the casualty’s affected eye under gently running cold water for at least ten minutes. Irrigate the eyelid thoroughly both inside and out.
  • Make sure that contaminated water does not splash the uninjured eye.
  • Ask the casualty to hold a clean, non-fluffy pad over the injured eye.
  • Do not allow the casualty to touch the injured eye
  • Do not forcibly remove a contact lens.

How does acid affect the body?

Acid can have a catastrophic effect on human flesh. It causes the skin tissue to melt, often exposing the bones below the flesh, sometimes even dissolving the bone.

In some cases when acid has come into contact with the eyes; they have known to discolour and burst.

What are the consequences and minimum sentence of an acid attack?

Adults convicted of carrying a corrosive substance in public for a second time will be given a minimum six-month jail term, and under-18s handed a four-month detention and training order. However, much lengthier sentences can be given for acid attacks themselves, shown by the case of a 19-year-old man who was jailed for 17 years over the death of a woman involving an acid attack.

If you witness acid attack, how can you help?
The video below shows clips of an acid attack which occurred in London. It also shows how you can carry out first aid on a victim.
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