People who use emollient creams to treat dry and itchy skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis, should be warned about the potential fire hazard, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has said.
Following an extensive review of the evidence, the Commission on Human Medicines (CHM) has recommended that labelling and product information for such products should include clear advice not to smoke or go near naked flames, in addition to information about the risk of severe burn injury or death when fabrics with emollients dried on them are accidentally ignited.
Although the overall risk is low, according to Chris Bell, a watch commander with the West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, there have been in excess of 50 deaths in the UK where the build-up of emollients on bedding, dressings or clothing may have contributed to the speed and intensity of a fire.
“Many of these fires were caused by people who smoked and were unaware of the fire risks associated with emollient build-up on fabrics,” he said.
“Ensuring that these products carry warnings will certainly help us as we continue to work with pharmacists, the NHS and care sector to prevent any future deaths.”
The MHRA and industry are working together to apply the CHM recommendations and develop suitable ways to make sure the warning is appropriately prominent, and are setting up a specific stakeholder group to manage education and awareness of the issue.