Wednesday, May 25, 2011

'Have water in handbag in case of acid attacks'

KUALA LUMPUR: The spate of acid splashing incidents in the Klang Valley is keeping frightened people, especially women, indoors but that does not have to restrict their movements, says a chemical expert.

Prof Dr Zainudin Arifin of Universiti Malaya said they should continue to go out to work, but must take precaution to lessen the damage in case of an acid attack. There were 23 cases since March.

Zainudin advised women to carry a bottle of water in their handbag. The chemist, from the Department of Chemistry in the Faculty of Science, said the victim must use the water to immediately wash off the acid as water could dilute it and prevent serious burns and permanent disfigurement. 

"Clean that part of the body fast and wash off the acid with as much water as possible because timing is very critical here.

"The longer you delay cleaning it, the more serious the damage and scarring will be. 

"Get a lot of water and wash for at least 15 minutes, preferably 30 minutes, then change your clothes and only after that, should you go and seek medical attention." 

If sodium bicarbonate (baking powder) was available, he said, the victim could also mix it with water and apply on the affected area to neutralise the acid.

"In the worst-case scenario where no water is available, wipe the affected area clean as much as possible." 

He also suggested that women wear protective accessories such as big sunglasses. Zainudin believed that the substance used in the attacks was diluted acid, and added that four types of acid were commonly available in the market, namely formic acid, hydrochloric acid, sulphuric acid and nitric acid. 

He said a proposal for the government to control the sale of acids in the market would not work and would not solve the problem. 

Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil had reportedly said that she would recommend to the cabinet to restrict the sale of acids in view of the incidents. 

To that, Zainuddin asked: "If someone drowns, can we ban everybody from swimming?" 

He said acids were important for many industries, particularly in the manufacturing and agricultural sectors. Acids are widely available in hardware stores and mostly used for cleaning purposes. 

"One of the most basic uses of acids is as a highly-effective agent for removing dirt. 

"As an industrial country, we use a lot of acids, especially sulphuric acid which also happens to be the most produced and highly-corrosive type," said Zainudin. -- Bernama

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