Skin creams can lead to fire deaths, health regulators warn brands

By Sarah Parsons | Published: 19-Dec-2018

Emollient creams for eczema and psoriasis can build-up on clothes or bedding and lead to fire deaths

Consumers who use emollient creams to treat skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and ichthyosis are being warned that they are at risk of catching fire.

British government body Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has recommend that brands should include clear fire hazard warnings on product packaging.

The medicines regulator said 50 fire-related deaths in the UK have been attributed to emollient creams.

According to the MHRA, the moisturisers' residue can build-up on fabrics, such as clothing or bedding, and cause them to catch fire more easily.

Washing the fabric may reduce product build-up but not totally remove it.

It was previously thought the risk occurred with emollients that contained more than 50% paraffins. However, new evidence has revealed a risk to all emollients, including paraffin-free products.

The MHRA is working with the Commission on Human Medicines on packaging recommendations for manufacturers:

  1. outer packaging and product containers should include a warning about the fire hazard and advice not to smoke, accompanied by short explanatory text and a picture warning in the most prominent field of view
  2. where available, the patient information leaflet or instructions for use and the summary of product characteristics should be updated to include warnings about the risk and how best to minimise it

June Raine, Director of MHRA’s Vigilance and Risk Management of Medicines division, said: “We don’t want to unduly worry people into not using these products which offer relief for what can be chronic skin conditions, but it is equally important people are aware of the risks and take steps to mitigate them.

“Our new evidence-based recommendations are intended to empower proper use of these tried and trusted treatments and we are working with industry to support delivery of prompt packaging and labelling warnings and advice.”

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