The Director of the Reconstructive Plastic Surgery and Burns Centre (RPS&BC) of the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, Dr Opoku Ware Ampomah, has advised people who come into contact with acid to use running water to neutralise the effects of the acid burns.
“When it comes to chemical burns such as acid, rushing to the hospital is not the solution. Rather use water continuously till the burns stop,” he advised and called on people to use water to defuse acid burns and any other chemical that came into contact with the body for about 30 minutes before rushing to the nearest hospital.
Dr Ampomah, who gave the advice in an interview with the Daily Graphic Monday, also called on the authorities to treat acid as a controlled substance which should not be left loose on the market.
Adams Mahama, the Upper East Regional Chairman of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), was attacked with acid by two unidentified men on Wednesday, May 20, 2015.
He was returning from his construction site late in the night when the two unknown men stopped him.
They immediately poured acid on him while in his vehicle close to his residence.
The seats of his pick-up have all been torn by the acid. He was showered with the acid, from the head through the face to other parts of the body.
He was rushed to the Bolgatanga Regional Hospital where he died the next day.
Treating acid as cocaine
“Like how cocaine use is regulated in the country, acid should also be treated as any other controlled substance,” Dr Ampomah said.
According to him, because it could be used to cause severe bodily harm leading to death in some circumstances, many countries regulated its access.
Users, he said, had to obtain a licence before they could get access to acid. He, therefore, wondered why Ghana was yet to regulate its use.
“I don’t know if Ghana has laws on acid. If we do, then why are we not enforcing them?” Dr Ampomah wondered.
According to him, depending on the concentration of the acid, it reacted faster or slower on the body tissues as it “denatures the body protein”.
He said the quantity and exposure time of acid on the body also determined the gravity of its destruction on the body.
He said it was advisable for people to ensure that they also removed all clothing that they had on as they “irrigate or shower themselves” with water.
“Another [piece of] advice is that people should ensure that as they help others to remove their clothing, they should not come into contact with the substance,” he explained, and called on those who wanted to offer support to also protect their hands.
He said when acid came into contact with the eye, it could cause total blindness as it could damage the cornea, which is the black, brown or blue portion of the eye, causing it to become white.
Types of acid
The commonest acid on the market, he said, was sulphuric acid, which is commonly used in car batteries.
The other, he said, was hydrochloric acid, which is used in the production of chlorides, fertilisers and dyes in electroplating and in the photographic, textiles and rubber industries.
He said other products such as vinegar, stain removers and swimming pool cleaners had some amounts of acid in them.
Dr Ampomah said there were some types of acid which had metals in them and, therefore, could be absorbed into the body depending on the quantity and duration of stay in the body to damage some organs in the body such as the kidney and the lungs.
Dr Ampomah also advised people to not use baking soda to neutralise acid burns, saying that the best solution was water.
According to him, baking soda, which, even though could be a neutralising agent to acid, is also an alkaline which could react with the acid to cause further burns.
He said since water was more readily available, people should rather concentrate on using water to dilute the burns than looking for other substances which could be time wasting.
Dr Ampomah, who is described by many as a “surgeon of surgeons”, said, “With acid burns, one’s immediate reaction, especially the resort to running water or shower, is key”.