An investigation by the BBC discovered that a number of deaths across the UK could be linked to the use of hand creams that include paraffin. At the time of their investigation they found that 37 deaths could be attributed to the use of the cream between 2010 and 2016, and they later identified another 8 deaths after November 2016 that could similarly be linked to the use of hand cream.
Now a senior fire fighter has come forward with experimental evidence showing that residual paraffin cream that is absorbed by fabrics, such as bedding or your clothes, remains for much longer than previously thought. Paraffin cream is highly flammable, although most brands do not carry any sort of warning, and the residue in clothing can easily catch light from an ignition source.
The fire fighter told reporters,
“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.”
Brian Bicat, 82, set himself on fire with the embers from his cigarette after the flame caught some paraffin residue. The resultant fire claimed his life and now experts are warning that there may be thousands of deaths just like it that haven’t been linked to the use of the paraffin cream, but for which the product may be responsible.
Paraffin creams are typically used to treat sore skin and eczema and are most commonly used for children’s rashes. E45 is one of the most famously recognisable brands of paraffin cream.
Bizarrely, whilst all manufacturers who make the creams have been ordered to print their labels with a fire-hazard warning the BBC investigation discovered that only 7 out of 38 products carried the warning.
Representatives from the industry for over-the-counter medications had this to say:
“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.
“Many manufacturers have already added warnings, and others are in the process of doing so.”