Emollient creams, lotions and ointments which are often used to treat skin conditions can be highly flammable and the fire service is calling for clearer warnings on packaging.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) announced this week recommendations that labelling for emollient products should include a warning about the fire hazard.
The products should contain clear advice not to smoke or go near naked flames and information about the risk of severe burn injury or death when clothing, bedding and dressings with emollients dried on them are accidentally ignited.
In 2015 there were three deaths in West Yorkshire where paraffin based emollients are believed to have accelerated the speed and intensity of the fire.
In once case, great-grandmother Pauline Taylor died in her Huddersfield home after emollient creams intensified a fire in her bedroom.
Pauline was a smoker and it’s believed she accidentally dropped a match on her bedding, which had dried paraffin-based psoriasis cream on it.
Pauline’s daughter Deborah Farmer said: “Since the tragic death of our mother in 2015 my sister and I have been working closely with WYFRS highlighting and raising awareness of the increased risk of flammability of clothing and bedding soaked in the products.
“It is essential that all patients and relatives have clear and concise information warning them of the potential risk of fabric flammability when exposed to smoking materials and naked flames.”
West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service Watch Commander Chris Bell said: “We realise that paraffin-based emollients can be hugely beneficial to people who use them to treat skin conditions but users and their carers do need to be aware of the potential fire risks if fabrics have been in contact with an emollient or emollient treated skin and an ignition source is introduced.
“It is particularly important if you are a smoker who uses emollients.
“Ensuring that these products carry warnings will help us as we continue to work with other fire services, pharmacists, the NHS and care sector to prevent any future deaths.”