LONDON – Fifteen people have died in London in the past three years after using flammable moisturisers that “turned them into human wicks,” the Fire Brigade has warned.
The shocking statistic was released by the London Fire Brigade as it called on carers to stop using flammable paraffin and petroleum-based moisturisers on their elderly patients, especially those who smoke.
MS sufferer Hilda Batten, of Earlsfield, was a smoker living alone and receiving daily visits from carers in July 2016 when she set herself on fire. She died later in hospital.
Her niece, Val Hamilton, said: “My aunt smoked since she was 14 years old, it was her one pleasure in life – it was a part of the way she was.
“No one ever warned us before about emollient creams. She had a cream applied to her daily. Knowing about the risks now is too little too late.
“They should put a warning on the packaging, people should be given guidelines about its usage,” she said.
Dan Daly, Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety, said: “It’s a horrific reality but if you’re wearing creams with flammable ingredients and you accidently drop a cigarette or a match, you are literally setting yourself on fire.
“Dropping cigarettes or matches onto clothing is dangerous but when flammable creams are involved, this really increases the chance of a fire starting and becoming much more intense,” he added.
Older people and those with mobility problems are particularly vulnerable since they tend to rely more on emollient creams, he said.
“Worse still, people using emollient creams tend to have beds with airflow mattresses.
“In effect, the bedding with the cream soaked in, acts as a wick.
“When the mattress comes into contact with a flame, the mattress essentially can act as a blow torch, intensifying the fire,” he said.
Emollients containing paraffin and petroleum, such as some products made by E45, are used to treat skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which regulates medicines and medical devices in the UK, says all creams containing paraffin should carry a flammability warning.
Dr Sarah Branch, Deputy Director of MHRA’s Vigilance and Risk Management of Medicines Division said: “Emollients are important skin treatments used by many patients. We are working with companies to make sure that important safety messages are included in the product information.
“We urge people to let us know of any adverse events which might occur with these products via http://www.yellowcard.gov.uk.”
PHOTO: Fifteen people have died in London in the past three years after using flammable moisturisers that “turned them into human wicks. image: Evening Stanard