Warning hundreds of fire deaths may be linked to skin creams

Warning hundreds of fire deaths may be linked to skin creams
From BBC - February 10, 2018

Hundreds of fire deaths may be linked to the use of skin creams containing paraffin, a senior firefighter warns.

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.

A BBC investigation found most creams do not carry warnings despite the risk.

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

Last March a BBC investigation discovered 37 deaths were linked to skin creams containing paraffin in England since 2010. It is believed 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.

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Firefighter Chris Bell, who is a watch commander with West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, says the actual number of deaths linked to the creams is likely to be much higher.

"Hundreds of thousands of people use them, we are not sure how many fire deaths might have occurred but it could be into the hundreds," he 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.

'I seem to have set myself on fire'

Brian Bicat, 82, from Bradford, West Yorkshire, died last September after being set on fire.

It is believed cigarette embers sparked paraffin residue from his skin cream and set his clothes alight.

His daughter Kirsten said her father's wife Kathleen returned from a walk to find him conscious but severely injured.

"The flat was full of smoke and there was a pile of smouldering clothes on the floor outside the bathroom burning a hole in the carpet," Kirsten said.

'Human firelighter'

No warnings


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