Skin creams containing paraffin are causing people to set themselves on fire, sometimes with lethal consequences, it has been reported.
Paraffin creams are used for skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis but can also soak clothes or bedding, which can make the fabric flammable.
The medicines regulator has updated its guidance and says all creams containing paraffin should carry a warning.
Reliable sources gave out an example of a man who died in 2006 after accidentally setting himself on fire when sparks from his cigarette made contact with emollient cream on his skin.
John Smith, chief executive of the Proprietary Association of Great Britain added the association wanted “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.”
Experts have been warning people about the risks for the past 10 years and a related investigation recently found that at least 37 deaths were linked to skin creams catching fire. Medical watchdogs in the UK had said skin creams containing paraffin were dangerous if used in large quantities.
5 live Investigates approached all 53 fire brigades in the UK to find out how many deaths had been linked to the use of paraffin-based skin creams since 2010.
Just six from England provided information – revealing the 37 fatal incidents. The majority came from the London Fire Brigade which reported 28 fatalities
Until recently, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency only asked that a flammability warning be put on packaging if a cream contained more than 50% paraffin.
The agency is now urging manufacturers to add a warning to the packaging of skin creams containing any paraffin.
And since being alerted to 5 live’s findings, the organisation representing manufacturers of branded over-the-counter medicines has said it will explore whether all paraffin-based creams should carry a warning as standard.
According to John Smith, chief executive of the Proprietary Association of Great Britain,some manufacturers had already put a warning on all paraffin-based creams.