What horrors! Bleach! - Public Domain

A story for the “What is the world coming to?” files. It appears that minors, mere children, can go into a shop and buy bleach in England. This is, as we’re all entirely aware, such a disgrace that all such corrosive liquids must be kept under lock and key immediately. Or something:

A schoolgirl was able to buy bleach from London shops, despite retailers agreeing to prevent sales of corrosive substances to children amid a spate of acid attacks, an investigation has revealed.

BBC’s 5 Live Investigates was present during an undercover sting led by Newham Council and the Metropolitan Police this week, in which a 14-year-old girl was able to buy bottles of household cleaning bleach from three out of five high street retailers in Newham.

The London borough had been dubbed the “acid attack capital of Britain” in reports after Met Police figures showed it had the highest rates of attacks in the UK.

The Government is currently reviewing the regulation of sales of corrosive substances.

Retailers are currently being encouraged to sign up to voluntarily self-regulate sales of corrosive substances to minors.

There’re the odd one or two technical points to make here. Bleach isn’t fun to get on the skin, true, but it’s not anything like an “acid”. For a start, it’s alkaline, the very opposite of acid, secondly the purities and strengths sold in those gallon and more bottles aren’t enough to do significant physical damage unless used directly into the eyes and not washed for some time. So, you know, regulatory over reach and all that.

There’s also the point to be made about the business itself. A quick visit to a supermarket will show a number of brands, each offering a number of variations, adding up in toto to an entire shelf or two of the stuff. Controlling who purchases something so widely available really isn’t going to be all that easy – even if it were something we’d wish to do. We’d also not be all that keen on dumping the cost of doing the policing upon the grocery stores. Such costs will be reflected in the prices everyone will pay for everything else.

But the real danger is here:

The results of the sting caused alarm, with Newham Council demanding the Government urgently bring forward legislation to introduce a total ban on the sale of corrosive liquids to children, 5 Live reports.

That danger being the regulatory two step. Cook up some cod reason why this or that should have some voluntary restrictions upon it. Salt in crisps, fat in pizzas, bleach to kiddies, take your pick of whatever manias you wish to consider. Note that the voluntary regulations aren’t followed by all – obviously, that’s the point of their being voluntary, that people can choose – or that they’re a bit leaky and then insist that legislation, banning, the criminal law, be used.

You can’t, from a standing start, get people sent to jail for adding salt to crisps. But you can if you start with “voluntary” regulation which then morphs, because it is ineffective, into a legal ban. That’s what the danger is here.

This isn’t about bleach and kiddies at all, this is about the anal retentive prodnoses who would regulate every corner of society. Not because of, not because of anything in fact, but just because. The freedom of 8 year olds to buy bog cleaner is a pretty shallow ditch to die in but at some point we’re going to have to fix bayonets against the regulators.