The London Fire Brigade (LFB) said last month that there have been 15 deaths involving flammable skin creams in London over the last three years. The creams are believed to have spread the flames across bedsheets and clothing.
Skin creams used to treat conditions such as eczema and psoriasis often contain paraffin or petroleum bases which are flammable and seep in to the wearer’s bedsheets and clothing. They can then act like a wick if ignited. Even washing the materials at a high temperature does not always remove the residue.
LFB has urged carers and healthcare professionals not to use the creams, particularly if the patient is known to smoke.
Dan Daly, LFB Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety, said: “It’s a horrific reality but if you’re wearing creams with flammable ingredients and you accidentally drop a cigarette or a match, you are literally setting yourself on fire. Dropping cigarettes or matches onto clothing is dangerous but when flammable creams are involved, this really increases the chance of a fire starting and becoming much more intense.
“I can’t stress how important it is to switch to non-flammable brand and carers should never allow users of these creams to smoke unsupervised, especially if they could become confused or fall asleep while smoking.”
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which regulates medicines and medical devices in the UK, has said they are working with companies to make sure all creams containing paraffin contain a flammability warning.
The warning from the LFB comes after a BBC investigation in March 2017 found that 37 deaths in England have been linked to the creams since 2010. They also found a that a number of coroners have raised concerns following inquests into deaths that have been linked to the creams.
“These are shocking figures from the London Fire Brigade, on top of the deaths already reported to be linked to flammable creams, which show the danger posed by paraffin and petroleum-based skin creams.
“It is crucial that any danger of fire associated to these creams is made clear to consumers to ensure that they are not put at risk.”