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Hazardous Substances

Volume 476: debated on Tuesday 20 May 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what restrictions on the retail sale of (a) sulphuric acid and (b) other highly corrosive substances there are; and if he will make a statement. (205532)

I have been asked to reply.

The Home Office controls the sale of sulphuric acid, together with other corrosive acids (formic, hydrochloric, hydrofluoric, nitric and phosphoric) under the Poisons Act 1972, included in Part II of the Poisons List. The purpose of the legislation is to allow the sale of commonly-used poisons whilst protecting the individual from their inherent dangers. The sale of Part II poisons are restricted to retail pharmacies and to businesses whose premises have been entered on to local authorities' lists as sellers of poisons (usually hardware stores, garden centres and the like).

The manufacture and sale of certain chemicals, that can be used in the production of illicit drugs, is controlled under EU legislation (Council Regulations (EC) Nos. 273/2004 and 111/2005) and effected through drug precursors regulations administered by the Home Office. Two of the chemicals under such control are sulphuric and hydrochloric acid, both commonly used as solvents in illicit production. Any company manufacturing or trading in either, and in quantities over 100kg a year, must be registered with the Home Office and exports to certain sensitive countries must be authorised.

Additionally, when hazardous chemicals, including sulphuric acid and other corrosive substances are sold, the Chemicals (Hazard Information and Packaging for Supply) Regulations 2002 places a requirement on suppliers to package such chemicals safely and label properly so that information is provided on the risks associated with these chemicals.