Eight months after the fatal acid attack on Karaikal techie Vinodhini, the sale of acid is still unregulated here. Acid is still being sold freely despite the Supreme Court order that prohibits over-the-counter sale of the chemical s unless the seller maintains a log with the name, a ddress and other details of the buyer.
According to the order, dealers should sell the chemical only after the buyer produces a government-issued photo identity card and specifies the purpose of purchase. The seller should submit the sale details to the local police within three days of the transaction and all stocks must be declared with the local sub-divisional magistrate within 15 days. Sale of the chemical to any person below 18 years of age is also prohibited. The conditions are yet to come into force in Puducherry.
Hydrochloric acid is still sold in several shops that stock cleaning materials, including Phenyl, though they have stopped selling sulphuric acid on account of the regulations. The deadly acid, however, is still available in numerous battery shops, jewellery polishing and repair centres. They are packaged and can be bought at low rates. While hydrochloric acid makes its way from factories in Cuddalore district, sulphuric acid is obtained from factories manufacturing soap oil. Puducherry alone has 50 odd soap oil-manufacturing units. On an average, more than 1,000 metric tonnes of fuming sulphuric acid(is procured every day for manufacturing soap oil. These units generate close to 1,200 tonnes of sulphuric acid waste as a byproduct. With a concentration of 80 to 90 per cent this byproduct too can cause severe burn injuries and eventually finds its way to the market. Any acid with a concentration of more than 10 per cent is considered as hazardous. “One could easily purchase a tonne of it at the rate of 50 paise per kg,” says Godhandaraman, Honarary President of Puducherry Environment Protection Association. Though spent sulphuric acid is covered under hazardous waste rules, it has gone unregulated by the Puducherry Pollution Control Committee (PPCC), said Godhandaraman.
PPCC officials maintain that the spent acid is mostly used by five aluminium sulphate manufacturing units in Puducherry. The PPCC is, however, not sure whether the entire 1,200 tonnes of the acid is used by the aluminium sulphate units. “We ensure that it does not reach the ground or is discharged in drains or canals,” a PPCC officials told Express.