There have been some horrific incidences of so called 'acid' attacks in the news of late. Strictly speaking, the attacks involve 'corrosive' liquids; an alkali can be just as dangerous as an acid. There is some confusion as to what products are 'safe' and which aren't, by some members of the public, as can be seen in this Twitter conversation.
We have previously posted about the need for people to understand the difference between Soda Crystals and Caustic Soda. Although they are both an alkali, they are VERY different. When dissolved in a 10% solution, Caustic Soda (sodium hydroxide) has a pH of 14 and is one of the strongest alkali in existence. Soda Crystals (Sodium Carbonate Decahydrate) have a pH value of 11. Water is neutral with a pH of 7. Sulphuric acid, another common drain cleaner is at the other end of the scale with a pH of 1 (in a 10% solution) ie EXTREMELY acidic. For reference, citric acid (also found in lemons) has a pH value of 3 at 10% solution.
The difference between an Irritant and a Corrosive product
The regulatory labels on packaging can go some way to helping consumers understand which products are safe to use, but it's not without issues, because the pH value alone is not the whole story. The EU classifications system means that different products could all be classified as corrosive, such as a bathroom cleaner and caustic soda, yet they carry very different health and safety implications.
Soda Crystals and Citric Acid are classed as 'irritants'. Unless you have a skin condition, or broken skin, you won't even feel anything when your hands are submerged in solution. If some splashes in your eye, it might sting a bit, but can be simply irrigated with some water. Caustic Soda and Sulphuric Acid are classified as 'Corrosive'. This means that if they come into contact with skin, it WILL BURN and may result in permanent damage and scarring! If you get some in your eye, you could end up losing the eye. That's why the media report that some of the victims of these attacks suffer from 'life altering' complications.
Dri-Pak's position is that highly corrosive products such as Sulphuric Acid and Caustic Soda should not be routinely available to the general public, particularly without age restrictions. There is no doubt that these products can be used as a weapon, just like a knife, or even a motor vehicle! We believe that regulation is required. We acknowledge that there may be circumstances in which professional cleaners need access to these products. Of course, we have been advising customers for years that prevention is better than cure and that regular use of Soda Crystals will help ensure that you don't suffer a severe sink/drain blockage in the first place.