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Data from national media reports of 'Acid attacks' in England: A new piece in the Jigsaw.

  • Nagarajan, Mahalakshmi1
  • Mohamed, Salma2
  • Asmar, Omar2
  • Stubbington, Yvonne2
  • George, Samuel2
  • Shokrollahi, Kayvan2
  • 1 St Helens and Knowsley NHS Trust, Department of Plastic Surgery, Whiston Hospital, Prescot, L35 5DR, United Kingdom. Electronic address: [email protected] , (United Kingdom)
  • 2 St Helens and Knowsley NHS Trust, Department of Plastic Surgery, Whiston Hospital, Prescot, L35 5DR, United Kingdom. , (United Kingdom)
Published Article
Burns : journal of the International Society for Burn Injuries
Publication Date
Jun 01, 2020
DOI: 10.1016/j.burns.2019.10.027
PMID: 31780279


There has been considerable concern in the UK with what seems to have been an increase in so-called 'Acid Attacks'. The key data sources (Police data, Hospital admissions and Burns unit data) have limitations in capturing the acid attacks comprehensively. Incidents not reported to the police are missed in the Police data. The more serious injuries are included in the hospital admissions data, with no information on people with less severe injuries, not accessing health care. Burns unit data reveals detailed information on the burns treatment but represents only a small percent of all the acid attacks. Our aim was to explore the role of media reports as an additional data source. Data was obtained from the public domain using generic online search engines along with a formal medical literature review. Search parameters included any news articles on 'Acid Attacks' printed between 01/01/2016 and 31/12/2017 in England and Articles in National Press only. We compared the data from media reports to the only other data sources available on these crimes which were (a) Crime statistics from police (b) the proportion treated in hospital (c) the subgroup treated in the burns service in the highest incidence location in the UK. Two hundred and Thirty media articles in total were found in the preliminary search. Following the application of the exclusion criteria, sixty attacks were analysed. The demographic data, the geographic data were obtained from the articles and the results were analysed using Microsoft Excel. There were a total of 118 survivors with an average age of 29.5 years and a male to female ratio of 5.1:1. There were no reported deaths. In the assailants group, the average age was 21.6 years with a male to female ratio of 15.7:1. All the data sources revealed higher male survivor predominance. The average age of the survivors was similar in the media reports, police data and the Burns centre data and was higher in the hospital data. Information on assailants and motives, available only on media reports and police data, corroborated well with each other. Media reports gave further information on the circumstances of the incident, the location and the number of survivors per assault, which was not available on any other data source. Though there was a rise in chemical assaults reported in media reports and MPS data in 2017 compared to the previous year, there was no rise in chemical assault related hospital admissions. The majority of the survivors were males, which is consistent between all UK data sources. Media reports revealed that the South east of England had the majority of chemical assaults in England. Data from this source provides a further piece in the jigsaw especially in relation to the circumstances, the geographic location of the chemical assault and number of survivors per incident. We acknowledge the limitations of media reporting. In the absence of a formal database for such injuries and incomplete data from various sources, we have to consider all possible data sources to provide new information. We have discussed the utility, pros & cons of media reports as one of the additional sources of information to better understand these injuries. Copyright © 2019 Elsevier Ltd and ISBI. All rights reserved.

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