The attack in Clapham on Wednesday night left 12 people injured, including a 31-year-old mother and her three and eight-year-old daughters, three women who came to their aid and five police officers.
A manhunt is now underway for a 35-year-old suspect who is believed to have fled on foot towards Clapham Common with significant facial injuries. Streatham MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy told The Independent: “It’s clear that the individuals involved in the attack were known to each other.”
Following a car collision, in which the woman and her children appear to have been travelling, the mother was heard screaming: “My eyes. My eyes. Call the police. My eyes.”
Ms Ribeiro-Addy hailed “hero” members of the public who stepped in to grab the youngest child away from the attacker after witnesses said he allegedly pulled her from the car on Lessar Avenue and threw her twice to the ground like a “ragdoll”.
One resident who rushed in to rescue the child was left requiring hospital treatment when her lips and arm began to burn after coming into contact with her. “I poured water on her and called the ambulance,” she said. “The child was crying she told me her name and she was three but I couldn’t hear her through the tears.”
Police have since confirmed the corrosive substance used in the attack was an alkaline. Here, we take a look at what the difference is between acid and the substance thrown:
What is the difference between acids and alkalis?
Acids and alkalis are two opposing groups of chemicals which are common in daily life, but which become highly corrosive the stronger they are.
Both are capable of burning through skin and even metal, depending on their strength.
Their strength is measured using the PH scale, which spans from 0 to 14. Substances with a PH level below neutral (7) are acidic, while those with a higher level are alkaline. Each becomes more corrosive the further from neutral they are found to be.
What household substances are alkaline?
Alkaline substances include lime products, plaster and mortar, oven and drain cleaners, dishwasher powders and fertilisers.
They are often used in household cleaning products as they react with oils and fats, while weaker alkalis are also found in toothpaste, indigestion tablets and baking powder.
Meanwhile, acid products include toilet cleaners, battery acid, bleach and chemicals that are added to gas.
What damage can they do?
According to healthcare professionals, alkaline chemicals are able to penetrate and damage the deeper layers of tissue when compared to acidic chemicals.
Alkaline agents are considered more toxic than acids, because they can cause irreversible changes and damage, experts say.
Most chemical burns are treated first by rinsing the chemical off your body with a large amount of cool water.
Attacks using corrosive substances soared by 69 per cent in 2022, which saw a total of 710 attacks in England and Wales, with female victims exceeding the number of male victims for the first time.
Data obtained by the Acid Survivors Trust International from police forces showed this compared with 421 attacks in 2021 – but remained lower than a peak of 941 attacks in 2017.
Scotland Yard Commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, told BBC Radio London on Thursday: “Fortunately, attacks using acid and chemicals are exceedingly rare. We did have a spate of them two or three years ago, you might remember. It’s not something we’ve seen much of at all recently, I’m pleased to say.”