An east London council has called on shopkeepers to control the sale of acid-based products and corrosive substances after a spate of gruesome acid attacks in the area.
Hackney Council wants shops to refuse to sell products such as drain cleaner to under-21s or anyone else they deem suspicious. Four of the five acid attacks committed during an infamous spree in July took place in Hackney.
A range of domestic and industrial products containing acid and ammonia can cause irreversible burns and blindness when they make contact with human skin and eyes.
There are currently no legal restrictions on the sale items such as One Shot Drain cleaner, which is 91% sulphuric acid, although Hackney runs a voluntary scheme where shops agree to contol the sale of these products.
Four shops signed up to a trial of the scheme last year but the council is now asking every trader in the borough to implement more rigorous checks on people buying corrosive substances.
"We have taken the initiative by asking shop keepers to voluntarily ID customers and report suspicious sales," said Mayor of Hackney Philip Glanville. "Over the next few weeks we're going door to door handing out leaflets and speaking to shop keepers to ask them to join our scheme and help keep these dangerous substances off the street."
In the aftermath of the July acid attack spree, IBTimes UK revealed that highly corrosive substances could be bought at the click of a mouse by anyone or in major UK retailers up and down the country.
Since then, several more harrowing incidents of Londoners being disfigured for life by acid attackers have come to prominence, including a pregnant woman who had acid thrown at her baby bump – and feared she may have lost her child.
The ready availability of highly corrosive substances helps explain why acid attacks in the capital have risen by 175% in two years. The Met recorded 454 "crimes involving ammonia or other noxious substances" in 2016, up from 166 in 2014 and 162 in 2012.
The effect of these substances on the human face is horrifying. Resham Khan, an aspiring model, was celebrating her 21st birthday last month when she was sprayed with acid.
She has been left badly disfigured by the attack, which a man is being tried for. It is not known what kind of acid was used.
The Home Office is currently considering legislation to control the sale and possession of corrosives in a similar way to the sale of knives.
In the meantime, Hackney says it will train all shopkeepers that sign up to the scheme and provide them with signage to inform customers that they are responsible outlets.
"A shopkeeper was recently prosecuted and fined £2,000 ($2,600) for selling a knife to a teenager in Hackney," said Glanville. "So we will certainly enforce the sale of corrosive substances if there is a change in the law that allows us to do so."