MHRA launches campaign on emollients and fire risk

MHRA launches campaign on emollients and fire risk

July 31, 2020

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has launched a campaign to raise awareness of the fire risk and the precautions that need to be taken by users of Emollient skin products.

As pharmacy teams are aware, some emollients, when dried on to fabric, can create a highly flammable combination that can cause serious injury and death. The MHRA campaign follows research showing that the risk arises, even if the products do not contain paraffin.

Background information

Emollients are used by thousands of people every day to help manage different skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and ichthyosis. The products are easily transferred from skin on to clothing, bedding and bandages. When fabric with dried-on emollient encounters a naked flame, the resulting fire burns quickly and intensely and can result in serious injury or death. The risk increases with every application of the product as it transfers, dries, and builds up on the fabric. Some product remains even when the items are washed, so it is important to minimise the risk in additional ways, such as removing long sleeved or loose clothing before cooking or using a safety lighter.

The products alone are not flammable, nor are they flammable when on the body.

Healthcare professionals are advised to continue to recommend them for chronic dry skin conditions and those using them should continue to do as directed, while staying alert to the risk of fire when on to fabric.

The MHRA first took regulatory action on the issue in 2008, and since 2018 has recommended that labelling and product information for emollient products should include a warning about the fire hazard, with clear advice not to smoke or go near naked flames.

Since 2010, more than 50 deaths and serious injuries have been linked to the use of emollient skin creams. A review has shown that those most at risk tend to be over 60, smokers and those with reduced mobility. The MHRA recommends anyone in this high-risk group, or their carers, should arrange a fire service assessment of their personal surroundings.

A safe use of emollients video is available on YouTube.

Further guidance and resources

 



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