Hundreds of fire deaths are likely related to skin creams

He said many fire services do not have forensic investigation teams able to properly assess the role of paraffin cream in fires.

Hundreds of fire deaths are likely related to skin creams

He said many fire services do not have forensic investigation teams able to properly assess the role of paraffin cream in fires.

11 February 2018 Sunday 11:36
Hundreds of fire deaths are likely related to skin creams

Investigation have revealed that hundreds of fire deaths may be linked to the use of skin creams containing paraffin, a senior firefighter warns.

The BBC which did an investigation in the case said quoting the senior firefighter that if people use the creams regularly but do not often change clothes or bedding, paraffin residue can soak into the fabric and act as an accelerant when it comes into contact with a cigarette or a flame from a heater.

According to a BBC investigation, most creams do not carry warnings despite the risk.

The medicines regulator is conducting a safety review into the creams, it said.

Media reports said that many deaths –more than 40 have been linked to skin creams containing paraffin in England from 2010 to November 2016.

A BBC investigation discovered 37 deaths were linked to skin creams containing paraffin in England since 2010.

It said there are reports that there have been a further eight deaths since November 2016.

But fire services are now warning the creams - used for conditions like eczema and psoriasis - may have played a role in many other deaths without investigators realising.

Firefighter Chris Bell, who is a watch commander with West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, told BBC that the actual number of deaths linked to the creams is 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," Bell said.

His concerns were echoed by Mark Hazelton, group manager for community safety at London Fire Brigade.

He said many fire services do not have forensic investigation teams able to properly assess the role of paraffin cream in fires.

One of the victims is Brian Bicat, 82, from Bradford, West Yorkshire who died last September after being set on fire.

Reports said cigarette embers might have sparked paraffin residue from his skin cream and set his clothes alight.

The grandfather of three, who used to run a jazz club, was airlifted to hospital suffering third degree burns across half his body and later died.

Kirsten said the family had no idea his clothing had become a fire risk.

"One minute he was going to jazz club, going on holiday to the bird watching sanctuary, playing Scrabble and being larger than life like he was, then the next minute just completely gone. It's just so hard to get your head round," she said.

"The clothes that he wore were obviously saturated with the creams so he unwittingly turned himself into a firelighter and who knew that could happen?"

Last year the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) asked all manufacturers of skin creams that contain paraffin to carry a fire-risk warning.

But a joint investigation between 5 live Investigates and Inside Out Yorkshire and Lincolnshire has discovered just seven of 38 products containing paraffin that are licensed in the UK have put warnings on their packaging.

The MHRA said it was conducting a review around safety information concerning paraffin-based skin creams and was continuing to "collaborate closely with partner organisations including both manufacturers and the fire service to further reduce the risks associated with paraffin-containing topical products".

John Smith, chief executive of The Proprietary Association of Great Britain (PAGB), which represents manufacturers of branded over-the-counter medicines, said: "We recognise that all emollient products need clear information on packaging that warns users about the potential risk if their clothing or bedding comes into contact with a naked flame."

He said PAGB was engaged closely with the ongoing MHRA review.

"Many manufacturers have already added warnings, and others are in the process of doing so," he added.

Updated: 11.02.2018 11:58
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