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Editor’s comment: Why the Gazette is calling for tougher regulation on sale of acid online

PUBLISHED: 11:48 30 August 2017 | UPDATED: 11:48 30 August 2017

The t-shirt was badly scorched and burned and completely dissolved in places when strong acid drain unblocker was poured on it.

The t-shirt was badly scorched and burned and completely dissolved in places when strong acid drain unblocker was poured on it.

Archant photographer

I guess I was hoping the drain cleaner wouldn’t do anything.

Admittedly, we wouldn’t have had much of a story if the industrial-strength acid we bought online hadn’t burnt through anything. But better that than the awful proof of how potent – and easily available – this stuff actually is.

Watching what it did to the out-of-date steak was unpleasant enough, though I find meat pretty gross at the best of times and after all the thing was already dead. Nonetheless, it “cooked” it in seconds; the steak went hard, grey and rubbery and I think we were all in little doubt as to how damaging it would have been to anything living.

But seeing it destroy the shirt was the eye-opener for me. It burnt holes straight through it and turned what remained into solid, sticky ash that would almost certainly have adhered to any poor sod wearing it. It had to be chipped off the laminated tray when the reaction had finished, and was little more than a thin lattice of coal when we got it free.

Time was, we didn’t want to be specific about the products people were using as weapons, or components of weapons, for fear of educating would-be attackers. And there may be readers of today’s Gazette who feel we have been irresponsible in specifying how to obtain a lethal substance that can be used to destroy lives.

But in the same way as people don’t need telling that knives are sharp, I don’t think we can rely on ignorance. The ease with which kids can get hold of acid can only send the message that carrying and using it isn’t a big deal; that it’s a low-risk game compared with gun or knife crime.

Of course we need to stop kids wanting to carry it in the first place, and that is a complex process involving education, intervention and sentencing. But the retailers profiting from this misery must be held to account, too.

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