Is your skin cream a fire hazard?

Skin creams containing paraffin could be related to hundreds of fire-related deaths, a senior
firefighter has suggested.

skin cream in pot

 Chris Bell, watch commander of West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, says that paraffin-based creams used to treat skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis can become highly flammable when they soak into fabrics and come into contact with cigarettes or naked flames.

“Hundreds of thousands of people use them, we’re not sure how many fire deaths might have occurred but it could be into the hundreds,” he said, speaking to BBC 5 Live.

“People are using paraffin-based skin products to treat eczema and psoriasis and various other skin creams, putting it all over their bodies and different parts of themselves – treating themselves for those different skin conditions.”

person applying skin cream

Mr Bell explains that the cream can get into fabrics, clothing, bandages and bedclothes, and become highly flammable, especially if these items are not washed regularly and the product builds up.

“The creams are safe to use in their own right, but if that person is exposed to a naked flame or some other heat source, they can go up,” he says.

The findings come after an investigation by the radio station and Inside Out Yorkshire and Lincolnshire which discovered that just seven of 38 paraffin-based products licensed in the UK had warnings on their packaging.

According to the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, users should not smoke, use naked flames or go near anything which may cause a fire while the creams are in contact with dressings or clothing.

Its advice states “patients’ clothing and bedding should be changed regularly – preferably daily – because emollients soak into fabric and can become a fire hazard”.