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Agencies warn of fire risk from emollient skin creams as UK records deaths and injuries

When emollient skin creams dry into fabrics, the material can become flammable and poses a danger if it touches a naked flame.

Image: Shutterstock/nito

EMOLLIENT SKIN CREAMS can pose a fire-safety risk in homes, health product regulation agencies have warned.

In the UK, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has stated that more than 50 people died or were seriously injured in the last ten years due to fires started by emollient creams that had dried onto fabric.

The Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) in Ireland told TheJournal.ie that it has not received reports of incidents in Ireland related to the products catching fire, but that there is a fire hazard associated with them.

When the emollient is transferred from skin to fabric, such as bedding or clothing, the fabric can become flammable and is dangerous if it comes into contact with a naked flame or a lit cigarette.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, HPRA stated that it is “working with companies to update the product information of relevant medicines with warnings for users of the risk, and to keep away from fire when using the product”.

In the UK, the MHRA has said that materials that have come into contact with the creams should be kept away from flames.

Additionally, it has advised against smoking or coming near to flames while wearing clothes or bandages that have been in contact with skin creams.

Where that is not possible, a flameless lighter or e-cigarette should be used if smoking and long-sleeved or baggy clothing should be removed if using a gas hob, the MHRA said.

It said that washing clothes and bedding can remove the build-up of dried cream, but may not remove it completely.

Emollients are treatments applied directly to the skin that cover the outer layer of the skin with a protective film, reducing water loss.

They are used to moisturise dry skin and ease associated symptoms, such as itching, scaling, and cracked skin.

Medicated emollients are used to treat skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis.

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Emollient moisturisers can be formulated with a number of ingredients, including paraffin, shea butter, cocoa butter, nut oil or mineral oils.

In 2017, the HPRA issued a safety notice stating it was “aware of the potential flammability risk of paraffin-based topical products that may come into contact with dressings, clothing and bedding”.

It outlined that emollients, barrier creams and skin creams can be absorbed into dressings, clothing and bedding and then ignited by smoking or by an open flame.

The HPRA advised that people using the cream should keep away from sources of fire, such as a naked flame or a lit cigarette, and clean materials that come into contact with the cream.

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