Reminder to act vigilantly when selling chemical products

Published on: 18 May 2017

home office

Whilst sold for legitimate uses, products containing certain chemicals can also be misused for criminal purposes.

Following a recent amendment to the Poisons Act 1972 to broaden the scope of listed chemicals, British Marine, in partnership with the Home Office, would like to remind members of their legal responsibility to report transactions where they have reasonable grounds for suspecting that substances are intended for the illicit manufacture of explosives.

Additionally, any member carrying on a trade, business or profession that involves any reportable explosives precursors must report significant disappearances or thefts of any such substances. In determining whether the disappearance or theft is significant, regard must be had to whether the amount involved is unusual in all the circumstances of the case.

Pyrotechnic articles such as flares are specifically exempted from the legislation, therefore it only concerns the base substances rather than a finished article.

Reporting obligations

Suspicious transactions and significant disappearances and thefts of products containing the following chemicals shall be reported to the Contact Point (see below) according to EU-Regulation 98/2013:


 May be present in

Hydrogen peroxide

Bleach, hair bleach, disinfectants, cleaning agents


Fuel for model engines

Nitric acid

Etching agent, metal treatment, pH adjuster

Sodium chlorate, potassium chlorate, sodium perchlorate and potassium perchlorate

Pyrotechnic kits, aquatic oxygenating tablets

Ammonium nitrate2

Fertilizer, cold packs


Nail polish remover, solvent


Solid fuel for camping stoves and model steam engines

Sulphuric acid

Drain cleaner, acid for car batteries (sold as such)

Potassium nitrate, sodium nitrate and calcium nitrate

Fertiliser, food preservative (sold as such), pyrotechnics

Calcium ammonium nitrate


Aluminium / Magnesium powders

Pyrotechnic kits

Magnesium nitrate hexahydrate


How to recognise suspicious transactions

A suspicious transaction is any transaction or attempted transaction where there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that the product is intended for malicious purposes. Whether behaviour is suspicious has to be judged on a case-by-case basis. Indicators of suspicious behaviour may include when a customer:

  • Appears nervous, avoids communication, or is not a regular type of customer
  • Attempts to purchase an unusual amount of a product or unusual combinations of products
  • Is not familiar with the regular use(s) of the product(s), nor with the handling instructions
  • Is not willing to share what he/she plans to use the product(s) for
  • Refuses alternative products or products with a lower (but for the proposed use sufficient) concentration
  • Insists on paying cash, especially large amounts
  • Is unwilling to provide identity or home address details if requested
  • Requests packaging or delivery methods that deviate from what would be ordinary, advised, or expected                 

What to do in case of suspicion

If you are suspicious of a transaction or attempted transaction, report it to the UK contact point on 0800 789321 or email If you discover a theft or disappearance that cannot easily be explained, report it to Police via 101.

Try to record as much detail as possible regarding the customer and transaction, such as:

  • Height, body type, hair style and colour, facial hair
  • Tattoos, piercings, scars, glasses and/or any other distinguishing features
  • Registration, make, and model of any vehicle
  • Time of purchase, products and amounts involved

Keep any receipts, ID details and CCTV records. Any documentation handled by the customer should be preserved for fingerprinting.

You have the right to refuse the transaction. Reporting should be completed without undue delay, even if the transaction is declined.