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18 December 2018

Emollient Build Up in Clothing and Bedding Can Pose a Fire Hazard

Care should be taken to keep clothing and bedding which may contain emollient residue away from naked flames.

Generic emollientThe UK medicines regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), is warning people who use emollients to treat conditions which affect the skin, such as psoriasis, that residue can build up on clothing and bedding, creating a potential fire hazard. Fabric which has been in repeated contact with these products can burn more easily, so users should not smoke or go near naked flames.

The MHRA states 'The likelihood of fabric that has been in contact with emollient products catching fire through an individual smoking or being near a naked flame is low, but if this does occur it could cause severe burns which may result in death. We want users to be aware that fabrics which have come into contact with an emollient can be highly flammable, even after washing. The risk is greater when emollients are applied in large quantities or to large areas of the body.'

It was previously thought that the fire risk occurred with emollients which contain more than 50% paraffins, however new evidence suggests that ALL emollients (including those which contain low levels of paraffin, or are completely paraffin-free) could pose a risk. Therefore, the MHRA's advice applies to all emollients, whether they contain paraffin or not.

As a result of these latest findings, the MHRA also makes new recommendations about the packaging and product information for emollients, advising that these should include a warning about the fire hazard, with 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.

In the meantime, it is important to clarify that emollients are not, in themselves, dangerous. The creams will not spontaneously combust and are perfectly safe to use as long as they are kept away from naked flames and lit cigarettes. If you use emollients and have any questions or concerns, the MHRA advises speaking to a healthcare professional, such as your pharmacist or GP.

If you would like more information on different moisturisers, creams or emollients, please click here.

If you have further concerns about emollients which are not addressed in this article, please do get in touch.