Skin Creams with Paraffin in Linked to 37 Fire Deaths

March 28, 2017

Skin Creams with Paraffin in Them Linked to 37 Fire Deaths

Photo: David Stenbeck

British medicines regulator warned healthcare professionals about risks of paraffin in creams in 2008.

Skin creams containing paraffin, such as E45, which are used to treat skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis have been linked with deaths caused by fires.

The study found that since 2010 there had been 37 deaths caused by fabrics being accidentally ignited due to paraffin from body creams soaking into them.

Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) published an article in April 2016 warning about the danger of paraffin in skin creams, but claim it already informed medical professionals about the risks eight years previously.

"The risk is greater when these preparations are applied to large areas of the body, or when dressings or clothing become soaked with emollient," a statement said.

In their warning to healthcare professionals, MHRA list two key factors in helping patients avoid fire risk: staying away from smoking or using naked flames, and changing bedding daily to stop emollients soaking into fabrics.

In 2006, Phillip Hoe was killed at a hospital when going for a cigarette as sparks ignited the moisturizer cream he had been using. He suffered 90% burns.

His wife Carol said: "I got a phone call from the ward sister to say can you get to the hospital as soon as possible, Philip's had an accident.

"Philip had caught fire. He had sneaked off onto a landing for a sneaky cigarette, a gust of wind must have caught the lighter, and it set fire to him."

Propriety Association of Great Britain (PAGB)

Propriety Association of Great Britain (PAGB), a UK trade association, told IBTimes UK such creams are suitable for use as long as safety instructions accompany the packaging.

Chief Executive John Smith said: "We want to reassure people that the normal use of emollients in the home is considered appropriately safe provided the products are used in accordance with the on-pack instructions and accompanying patient information leaflet.

"Manufacturers of emollients are not at present required by regulation or statute to include fire safety warnings on packaging. Safety is nonetheless of paramount importance to the OTC medicines industry.

"In the light of this investigation, PAGB is looking to explore this issue further with the member companies and relevant bodies to see if in future, safety warnings should be added to on-pack labelling for all paraffin based emollients as standard practice across the industry, a step which some manufacturers have already taken."

Bibliography: Gamp, O. (2017, March 19). Paraffin agent in skin creams linked to 37 fire deaths since 2010. Retrieved March 28, 2017, from

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