UK – Emollient cream build-up in fabric can lead to fire deaths

People who use emollient creams to treat dry and itchy skin conditions are being warned that residue can build up on fabrics, such as clothing or bedding, and cause them to catch fire more easily.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is recommending that labelling and product information for these emollient products should include a warning about the fire hazard, with clear advice not to smoke or go near naked flames and information about the risk of severe burn injury or death when clothing, bedding and dressings with emollients dried on them are accidentally ignited.

Emollients are moisturising treatments applied directly to the skin to soothe and hydrate it. They cover the skin with a protective film to trap in moisture. Emollients are important treatments, widely used to help manage dry, itchy or scaly skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and ichthyosis.

The likelihood of fabric that has been in contact with emollient products catching fire through an individual smoking or being near a naked flame is low, but if this does occur it could cause severe burns which may result in death. We want users to be aware that fabrics which have come into contact with an emollient can be highly flammable, even after washing. The risk is greater when emollients are applied in large quantities or to large areas of the body.

Following an extensive review of the available evidence, the Commission on Human Medicines (CHM) recommends that…