Guidance: Acid Attack - How to Respond

Guidance: Acid Attack - How to Respond

There have been 400 acid attacks in the six months leading up to April, and there is already a big increase in acid attacks in the UK, relative to 2016.

Whereas in the past most of the attacks were related to robberies, corrosive substances now seem to be a replacement for carrying knives.

The rise in acid attacks has led to calls for restrictions on the sale of sulphuric acid, which is easily available over the counter and is not illegal to carry.

The Acid Survivors Trust has called for potentially lethal substances to be reclassified so that a licence would be needed to buy them.

In recent months, a shocking spate of acid attacks have hit the headlines. Make sure you know what to do if you witness an attack.

Chemical Burns

  • Make sure that the area around the casualty is safe. Wear gloves to prevent you coming into contact with the chemical. If the chemical is in powder form, it can be brushed off of the skin.
  • Flood the burn with water for at least 20 minutes to disperse the chemical and stop the burning. Ensure that the water does not collect underneath the casualty.
  • Gently remove any contaminated clothing while flooding the injury.
  • Arrange to send the casualty to hospital. Monitor vital signs, such as breathing, pulse and level of response.


  • Never attempt to neutralise acid or alkali burns unless you are trained to do so.
  • Do not delay starting treatment by searching for an antidote.

Chemical Burn To The Eye

  • 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.
  • Arrange to send the casualty to hospital.


  • Do not allow the casualty to touch the injured eye.
  • Do not forcibly remove a contact lens.


A small 350ml bottle of water is not going to help. The sheer volume of water is key - you will need to use litres and litres of water.

Between 40 and 60 litres being poured over the burn to dilute the acid would give a victim the "best chance" of escaping long-term injury.


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