Scottish Daily Mail

Skin creams linked to ‘hundreds’ of fire deaths

- By Miles Dilworth

HuNDReDs of fire deaths could be linked to flammable skin creams, a senior fireman has warned.

Popular products such as e45, used for eczema and dry skin, contain high levels of paraffin. the creams can soak into clothes or bedding and burst into flames when they come into contact with a heat source.

Last year a BBC investigat­ion found that since 2010 there had been 37 deaths linked to skin creams containing paraffin. the figures were based on responses from just six of the uK’s 52 fire brigades, and it is believed there have been a further eight deaths since November 2016. Chris Bell, a watch commander at West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue service, warned that the actual number of deaths linked to the creams was likely to be much higher.

‘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.

Flammable creams include Nivea Creme, e45 and Cetraben, used for dry-skin conditions. Paraffin is also found in joint creams. mr Bell warned that regular users who failed to change clothes or bedding often enough were particular­ly at risk.

Brian Bicat, 82, of Bradford, died last september after cigarette embers sparked paraffin residue from his skin cream and set his clothes alight. the grandfathe­r was airlifted to hospital suffering third-degree burns across half of his body, but later died.

in 2015, Christophe­r Holyoake, 63, died after his bedclothes – covered in e45 residue – caught fire as he lit a cigarette in his Leicester home. the same year Cetraben cream was linked to the death of 84-yearold John Hill, whose clothing ignited at a West sussex nursing home.

Last year the medicines watchdog urged manufactur­ers to put warnings on their products. However, of 38 paraffin-based products licensed in the uK, only seven have them on their packaging, the BBC found.

e45 agreed to display warnings and Cetraben said it would review safety informatio­n after coroners raised concerns.

the medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency advises that patients using such creams should change clothing and bedding ‘regularly, preferably daily’.

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