West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS) are welcoming calls from a regulatory body to put clearer warnings on packaging of emollient creams. These creams, lotions and ointments are moisturisers commonly used to treat skin conditions.

The bereaved family of a great-grandmother, who died in a fire intensified by a paraffin-based emollient, has also embraced the news and thanked the fire service for its campaigning to raise awareness.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) yesterday announced recommendations that labelling and product information for these emollient products include a warning about the fire hazard.

The products should contain clear advice not to smoke or go near naked flames and information about the risk of severe burn injury or death when clothing, bedding and dressings with emollients dried on them are accidentally ignited.

Following three deaths in West Yorkshire since 2015, where paraffin based emollients are believed to have accelerated the speed and intensity of the fire, WYFRS developed a project to look at the issue.

Watch Commander Chris Bell is leading the project and representing the National Fire Chief’s Council on this matter. Our fire prevention team and fire investigators have worked hard to raise awareness of the risks and find out more about the scale of the problem.

As an operational member of the WYFRS, Chris had attended the devastating fire in the Primrose Hill area of Huddersfield in May 2015 where Pauline Taylor sadly died in her home. Pauline was a smoker and it’s believed she accidentally dropped a match on her bedding, which had dried paraffin-based emollients on it.

These products were used to treat her psoriasis. The emollient cream intensified the fire which ultimately killed her.

Pauline’s daughter Deborah Farmer said: “We, as a family, welcome the news from the MHRA regarding changes to labelling and packaging of paraffin-based emollients. Since the tragic death of our mother in 2015 my sister and I have been working closely with WYFRS highlighting and raising awareness of the increased risk of flammability of clothing and bedding soaked in the products.

“It is essential that all patients and relatives have clear and concise information warning them of the potential risk of fabric flammability when exposed to smoking materials and naked flames.”

Watch Commander Chris Bell said: “We are really pleased to see this recommendation put forward. We realise that paraffin-based emollients can be hugely beneficial to people who use them to treat skin conditions but users and their carers do need to be aware of the potential fire risks if fabrics have been in contact with an emollient or emollient treated skin and an ignition source is introduced.

“It is particularly important if you are a smoker who uses emollients. “Ensuring that these products carry warnings will help us as we continue to work with other fire services, pharmacists, the NHS and care sector to prevent any future deaths.”

Deborah added: “WYFRS have worked tirelessly over the last few years campaigning to see changes in how these products have been labelled and also providing education to healthcare professionals and pharmacists regarding emollients.”

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 the fire. This information was collated as part of a BBC Freedom of Information request to all fire and rescue services covering the period 2010 – 2017. Further collation of data has been carried out by the project team. Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge has also been working with the fire service on the research project.