Intended for healthcare professionals


Attacks with corrosive substances are increasing in UK

BMJ 2017; 358 doi: (Published 02 August 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;358:j3640
  1. Johann Grundlingh, consultant emergency physician1,
  2. Jessie Payne, ST4 trainee in emergency medicine1,
  3. Taj Hassan, president2
  1. 1Barts Health NHS Trust, London, UK
  2. 2Royal College of Emergency Medicine, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to: jgrundlingh{at}

Bystanders and health professionals can make a real difference to outcome if they act fast

The number of high profile “acid” attacks has been increasing in recent years, especially in London. The attacks, involving a range of corrosive substances, have brought into sharp focus the need for clinicians, law enforcement officers, and our lawmakers to find ways to deal with this latest menace on our streets. Treatment in the resuscitation room of the emergency department is only the start of a painful journey for victims, who often experience physical and mental distress for the rest of their lives. The assailants’ intention is not to kill, but to maim and disfigure. As the chemical is often thrown into the face, victims are likely to be left blind and severely disfigured.

Corrosive substances have been used as a form of torture throughout history, and stories of chemicals used as weapons are common in the scientific and fictional literature. Internationally, attacks with corrosive substances are most prevalent in India, Bangladesh, and Cambodia, where acids such as sulphuric and …

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