Acid attacks are now so prevalent that the public needs to be trained in helping victims, the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) has said.
The London alone, the number of attacks rocketed from 261 in 2015, to 454 last year, an increase of 73 per cent.
Doctors at the RCEM and Barts Health NHS Trust say that bystanders who come to the aid of victims should be taught to quickly remove contaminated clothing and wash off the acid with copious amounts of water, which can lessen scarring and the need for plastic surgery.
They also called for legislation to make the carrying of corrosive substances in the street illegal.
“The number of high profile “acid” attacks has been increasing in recent years, especially in London,” said Johann Grundlingh consultant emergency physician at Barts Health Trust, writing in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).
“The attacks, involving a range of corrosive substances, have brought into sharp focus the need for clinicians, law enforcement officers, and our lawmakers to find ways to deal with this latest menace on our streets.
“The assailants’ intention is not to kill, but to maim and disfigure. Corrosive substances now seem to be a replacement for carrying knives.
“Bystanders who come to the aid of the victim of an attack can have an important role in minimising further injury.”
Carrying corrosive substances is currently legal with no restrictions on volume or strength, although the government is considering changing the law.
In 2002, after similar attacks, Bangladesh banned the open sale of acid and imposed stringent punishment of offenders, which saw the number of attacks fall by 15-20 per cent a year.
India and Cambodia have also implemented legislation to combat acid attacks but have yet to introduce laws restricting the ease and availability of acid.
Last month two teenage boys were arrested following six acid attacks in the streets of London in a 72 minute spree. Just days before a man was arrested for flinging acid into the face of an aspiring model in the capital.
Although acid attacks are rarely deadly, victims are often left scarred, blinded and heavily traumatised.
The substance used is usually sulphuric or nitric acid and, unlike most other countries, in the UK men are more likely to be victims than women. Since police clamped down on knife crime, gang members frequently conceal acid in water bottles.
Chart: Acid attacks across the UK