About Acid Attacks


Acid Attacks

An acid attack is a form of violent attack defined as the act of throwing acid or a similarly corrosive substance onto the body of another “with the intent to maim, torture, or kill.” Perpetrators of these attacks throw corrosive fluids at their victims, usually at their faces, burning them and damaging skin tissue, often exposing and sometimes dissolving the bones. The most common types of acid used in these attacks are sulfuric acid and nitric acid. Hydrochloric acid is sometimes used, but is much less harmful. Aqueous solutions of strongly basic materials, such as caustic soda (sodium hydroxide), are also used, especially in areas where strong acids are controlled substances.
The long-term consequences of these attacks can include blindness, as well as eye burns, with much permanent scarring of the face and body, along with far-reaching social, psychological and economic problems. Today, acid attacks are reported in many parts of the world, but more commonly in developing countries.


Although comprehensive statistics on acid attacks in South America are scarce, a recent study on acid attacks in Bogota, Colombia provides some insight for this region. According to the article, the first identified survivor of acid violence in Bogota was attacked in 1998. Since then, cases have increased over time. The study also cited the Colombian Forensics Institute, which reported that 56 women complained of acid aggression in 2010, 46 in 2011 and 16 in the first trimester of 2012. The average age of survivors was about 23 years old, but ranged from 13 to 41 years. The study reported a male:female victim ratio of 1:30 for acid attack in Bogota, Colombia, although recent reports show the ratio to be closer to 1:1. Reasons for these attacks were usually due to poor interpersonal relationships and domestic intolerance towards women. Furthermore, female victims tended to come from low socio-economic classes and had low education. The authors state that the prevalence of acid attacks in other parts of South America remains unknown due to significant under-reporting.
On March 27, 2014, a woman named Natalia Ponce de León was attacked by Jonathan Vega, who threw a liter of sulfuric acid on her face and body. Vega, a former neighbor, was reportedly “obsessed” with Ponce de León and made death threats against her after she rejected his relationship proposal. 24% of her body was severely burned as a result of the attack.
Natalia Ponce De Leon before and 1 hour after acid attack with complete third degree burns of her face, trachea, arms and legs.

left: First operation in which dead skin is removed up to muscle tissue.
right: Total facial reconstruction Glyaderm “artificial dermis” and
own epidermis.
Subcutaneous “body’s own” fat transplants,
eyebrow transplantation; medical laser treatments,
Growth factors from your own blood (PRP), Microneedling
plastic surgeons: Jorge Luis Gaviria, Jennifer Gaona, Linda Guerrero, Marco Antonio Salazar and Ali Pirayesh

Ponce de León has undergone 15 reconstruction surgeries on her face and body since the attack. Three years before the attack occurred, Colombia reported one of the highest rates of acid attacks per capita in the world. However, no effective law was in place until Ponce de León’s campaign took off in the months following her attack. The new law, named after her, defines acid attacks as a specific crime and increases the maximum penalty to 50 years in prison for convicted offenders. The law also aims to provide victims with better medical care, including reconstructive surgery and psychological therapy.
Ponce de León expressed hope that the new law would act as a deterrent to future attacks. Health effects The most striking effect of an acid attack is lifelong physical disfigurement.
According to the Acid Survivors Foundation in Pakistan, there is a high survival rate among acid attack victims. Consequently, the victim faces physical challenges, which require long-term surgical treatment, as well as psychological challenges, which require in-depth intervention from psychologists and counselors at every stage of physical recovery. These far-reaching impacts on their lives impact their psychological, social and economic viability in communities.


The medical effects of acid attacks are extensive. Since most acid attacks target the face, several articles have thoroughly explored the medical implications for these victims. The severity of the damage depends on the concentration of the acid and the time before the acid is thoroughly washed off with water or neutralized with a neutralizing agent.
  • The acid can quickly eat away the skin, the fat layer under the skin and in some cases even the underlying bone.
  • Eyelids and lips can be completely destroyed and the nose and ears can be seriously damaged. 
  • The skull is partially destroyed/deformed and the hair is lost.  
  • Ear cartilage is usually partially or completely destroyed; deafness can occur.
  • Eyelids can become burned or deformed, leaving the eyes extremely dry and prone to blindness. Acid directly in the eye also damages vision and sometimes causes blindness in both eyes.
  • The nose can become shrunken and deformed; the nostrils can close completely due to destroyed cartilage.
  • The mouth becomes shrunken and narrow and may lose its full range of motion. Sometimes the lips can be partially or completely destroyed, exposing the teeth. Eating and talking can become difficult.
  • Scars can extend from the chin to the neck, causing the chin to shrink and extremely limited range of motion in the neck.
  • Inhalation of acid fumes usually causes respiratory problems, aggravating restricted airways (the esophagus and nostrils) in acid patients. 
In addition to these aforementioned medical effects, acid attack victims face the possibility of sepsis, kidney failure, skin depigmentation, and even death. A 2015 attack in which sulfuric acid was thrown on a man’s face and body as he lay in bed caused serious injuries, including paralysis from the neck down.


Survivors of acid attacks face many mental health issues during recovery. One study found that, compared to published Western norms of psychological well-being, non-white acid attack victims reported higher levels of anxiety and depression and scored higher on the Derriford Appearance Scale, which measures psychological distress due to a person’s concern about their appearance. In addition, female victims reported reduced self-esteem according to the Rosenberg scale and increased self-consciousness, both in general and in the social sphere.


In addition to medical and psychological effects, many social implications exist for acid survivors, especially women. For example, such attacks usually leave victims disabled in some way, making them dependent on their spouse or family for daily activities such as eating and shopping. These dependencies are exacerbated by the fact that many acid survivors are unable to find suitable employment, due to reduced vision and physical disabilities. This negatively impacts their economic viability and causes hardship for the families/spouses who care for them. As a result, divorce rates are high, with male abandonment. Furthermore, acid survivors who are single when attacked are almost certainly banished from society, effectively ruining the prospect of marriage. Some media outlets overwhelmingly avoid reporting acid attacks, or the description of the attack is laconic or often implies that the act was inevitable or even justified.


Treatment of burn victims remains inadequate in many developing countries where the incidence is high. Medical underfunding has resulted in very few burn centers being available to victims. In addition to inadequate medical options, many acid attack victims do not report to the police due to a lack of trust in the armed forces, a sense of hopelessness due to the impunity of the attackers and a fear of brutality in the handling of their cases. Most women victims suffer more due to police apathy in treating harassment cases as safety issues as victims refused to register a police case despite being assaulted three times before earning police assistance after an acid attack. These problems are exacerbated by a lack of knowledge about how to treat burns: many victims have applied oil to the acid instead of rinsing thoroughly and completely with water for 45 minutes or more to neutralize the acid. Such home remedies only serve to increase the severity of the damage because they do not counteract acidity.
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