One shopkeeper who DOES know the rules says: we don't just sell acid to anybody

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Shop owner Iain Heaphy believes small corner stores and mini-marts should be banned from selling potentially deadly substances.

Mr Heaphy, who sells potentially dangerous liquids from his family-run cleaning and hygiene specialist store, said understanding the range of substances and their properties is a complex one and welcomed the idea of legislation to better regulate the market.

When the Standard tried to buy a litre of cleaning fluid containing 91 per cent sulphuric acid from his shop, Watermans, Mr Heaphy challenged our reporter in line with Government guidance.

He asked for ID, what it was being used for and explained the potential dangers, telling our reporter: “That stuff could burn a hole in your hand.”

The store has been trading for more than 20 years and sells mostly in bulk to professional cleaning companies and tradesmen, but also makes domestic sales from its shop counter in Hackney Road, not far from where our reporter bought the same product from a mini-mart with no questions asked. 

When our reporter told Mr Heaphy about our findings, he said his business had become even more conscious of who they are selling to amid the acid attack epidemic.

Mr Heaphy, 61, who co-owns the store with brother Sean, said: “Since the acid attacks, we have been even more security conscious about people using the product properly and being safe with it.

“Corner shops shouldn’t be selling it because they don’t really know what they are selling. I think even hardware shops maybe shouldn’t be. I think plumbing or other specialist shops knowing what it can and can’t do are best.

“Legislation would be good because it would also give us guidelines as to what to say because if I say to someone ‘can I have some ID’, people might get funny. So that would help.

“At the same time if there is too much red tape we might stop selling it. It’s difficult to know what the legislation should be and how it would be implemented. It’s a dilemma. How would you enforce it? Some of the stronger rules around knives don’t really seem to have worked.

“We try to explain to someone that it’s dangerous and ‘is it the right stuff for you?’ We wouldn’t just sell it to anybody.

“Some of these products can even cause death I believe, if you had a bad reaction.”

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