Putting safety first - builders' merchant doesn't sell corrosive substances to under 18s

A father and son duo who own a builders’ merchants in Stoke Newington have explained why they don’t sell corrosive substances to anyone under the age of 18.

Grant and Asif Rifat from KAC Builders’ Merchants in Stoke Newington Church Street, decided four years ago to stop selling such products to under 18s, after seeking advice from the suppliers of their most potent drain cleaners.

“The supplier said there was no law preventing their sale. After that, I just decided to limit their sale to over 18s - they’re dangerous substances, and I don’t think people should be able to get them easily.” Grant said.

The highly concentrated products, which include caustic soda and One Shot drain cleaner, have been used in a number of violent attacks across London.

Asif said: “…I don’t think people realise how strong it is – these attackers might be aiming for someone but may end up hitting our sons, daughters, nieces or nephews and changing a life forever.”

Grant and Asif’s shop was one of seven visited by the Council’s Trading Standards team this month in test purchases across the borough, using teenage police cadets to buy the corrosive substances. KAC Builders Merchants were one of only two shops not to sell them.

Selling corrosive substances to under 18s is not illegal but Hackney Council is encouraging local businesses to sign up to its voluntary scheme to restrict such sales so that shops ask customers for ID if they appear to be under the age of 21 and refuse to sell them if they suspect anyone may cause harm.

The five shops who sold corrosive substances to the teenage cadets during the operation, were asked to join the scheme and to keep the products out of reach.

Asif added: “Drain cleaner isn’t one of those products you have to show to sell – so keep it behind the counter.”

Cllr Caroline Selman, Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Enforcement
I want to thank the shops who refused to sell corrosive substances to under 18s and the others who have joined our scheme so far to limit their sale.

We’ll continue to visit traders and get more signing-up, but we’re also clear that the only way to reduce the accessibility of corrosive substances is a change in legislation, which we would urge ministers to look at urgently.
Cllr Caroline Selman, Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Enforcement

Traders wishing to join the scheme and get advice can call 020 8356 4929 or email trading.standards@hackney.gov.uk.