Commonly Used Skin Creams Pose Fire Hazard

in #medical4 years ago (edited)


Introduction


As someone who has suffered from eczema all my life I often get over-the-counter skin creams to help treat it when it flares up.

One thing I had never considered was the fact that many of these preparations contain paraffin.

The BBC has been reporting today on a number of fire deaths that appear to have occurred when such creams accidentally caught fire.

The most worrying thing for me is that in all the years I have been using these creams I have never seen any kind of warning regarding fire risk with them.


What is Paraffin?


A Paraffin Lamp

Paraffin (also known as kerosene) is highly flammable and has been used in a variety of forms as a fuel. The following is taken from a paper by Schwebel and Swart [2]:

A hydrocarbon fuel created through distillation of petroleum, paraffin is invaluable for many reasons. It is relatively inexpensive to produce and consume, readily accessible, and it offers heat, light, and cooking opportunities to millions of individuals who would otherwise be without a domestic source of energy. Paraffin use is documented in most countries of the world, but is used by particularly large numbers of people in Africa and South Asia.

Paraffin is highly flammable, and poses fire risk when contaminated by water or other fuels; when used in malfunctioning appliances; when used by youth, intoxicated individuals, or other vulnerable individuals; when used purposely in acts of aggression or self-harm; and in dozens of other situations. Once a fire starts, children are at particular risk of paraffin-related burns due to their reduced mobility, undeveloped risk perception, longer sleeping hours, and greater likelihood to sleep deeply.


BBC Investigation


The BBC tried to obtain figures for how common paraffin skin cream related fire deaths were in the UK by asking all 53 regional fire departments to provide information:

"Just six from England provided information - revealing the 37 fatal incidents [between now and 2010]. The majority came from the London Fire Brigade which reported 28 fatalities."

Even if this comprises the entirety of the fire deaths in the whole of the UK (which would be highly unlikely) it is actually a significant number.


My Own Quick Estimate for Incidence in London


I couldn't find detailed statistics for every year but this London Fire Brigade website does say that there were 47 deaths in 2010.

If we extrapolate using that figure of 47 per year from 2010 to 2017 that would give us a total of 329 fire deaths over the last seven years.


London

Those 28 skin cream related deaths would therefore represent almost 9% of fire related deaths in London.

Note, this is almost certainly an underestimate as the actual fire deaths have been on a general downward trend.

For comparison in 2015, 36 people died in London as a result of fire - I used the higher figure since the site does not provide figures for the years in between.

Combine this with the fact that (according to fire officials from the BBC report) there is a lack of awareness of this as a potential fire hazard and it suggests the actual percentage will be significantly higher.

This is just looking at fatalities though.

Many more people might be surviving with life changing burns - not exactly a great outcome either.

What Can be Done?


Firstly there needs to be more awareness of this issue and vigilance in regards to recording how many injuries and deaths occur specifically as a result of using these creams.

There also need to be warnings on packets to at least advise people of the risk and the need to avoid heat sources, cigarettes, naked flames etc if they use them.

It seems that 2 manufacturers (E45 and Cetraben) are looking into providing such warnings.

Personally I will be looking at using alternative paraffin free creams but that also leaves me with some lingering questions:


Lingering Issues and Questions


One point that people may not consider is that regularly used creams (of any kind) can actually infiltrate clothing and bedding and this may not be adequately removed by washing.

I actually heard this on a radio interview with a fire official as a potential additional problem.

I'm not sure what exactly we can do to get around this beyond trashing our bedding and clothing - not exactly an ideal or inexpensive solution - particularly as there is no way to be sure if they are actually posing a risk.

Alternatives?

It is also important to be sure that we are not just replacing one flammable substance with another if we get rid of paraffin based creams.

For example how flammable is Vaseline? As I understand it is a petroleum derivative just like paraffin.

I'd also be interested to know how flammable creams containing more natural ingredients or oils are in comparison to paraffin based ones.

It would be pointless to replace one flammable component with one that is equally flammable!

As always let me know what you think. Also do you have any alternatives you would like to suggest?

Thank you for reading



References


  1. Adrian Goldberg, Ben Robinson. 2017. “Skin Creams Containing Paraffin Linked to Fire Deaths - BBC News.” BBC News. BBC News. March 19. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-39308748.

  2. Schwebel, David C., and Dehran Swart. 2009. “Preventing Paraffin-Related Injury.” Journal of Injury & Violence Research 1 (1): 3–5.

  3. London Fire Brigade. 2017. “London Fire Brigade - News Release Archive Container 2016,” March. London Fire Brigade. http://www.london-fire.gov.uk/news/LatestNewsReleases_fires-and-fire-deaths-down-over-five-years.asp#.WM69ARLyjDY.


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Enzymes, Vitamin C, Vitamin D and D3 - I am currently researching into these in regard to eczema and will blog soon. Essential oils too. There is so much to learn and apply. :)

Cool I am already taking those things:)

Winning! \0/ :)

It would be pointless to replace one flammable component with one that is equally flammable!

Indeed, we should find an alternative!

@richman exactly what I wanted to write :D

@thecryptofiend - how about this?

EDIT: Its what am using - organic and still not 100% innocent but surely not flammable

Someone should tell this guy.

Very nice ~.~ thank you for sharing.

good to know

Amazing! Thanks... it is so crazy how products in the UK and other countries are banned and we continue to use them in the US... hmmm makes me wonder... the US doesn't care about our well being at all. Maybe that is why they don't fix our healthcare as well.

Well these aren't banned - at least not yet.

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I like how you put an effort into details! References and everything!

This post is very helpful. Thanks for sharing @thecryptofiend

I knew I should not have covered my entire body in skin cream before dueling inside of an active volcano!

Yes that was very unfortunate. I think an ordinary person would surely have died of such burns.

Only someone with your strength and mastery of the force could survive.

It is a miracle and we as your loyal servants are very grateful for it.

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Your minnow friend Barry

Always when buying a cream I study its composition. But I never suspected the danger of a fire from the cream. Thank you for the post.

You're welcome:)

Thanks for this. It's really interesting. I don't have to use creams, thank goodness.

Have you tried Rosehip oil for your eczema? My mother gets it really badly and this helps a lot.

I can't testify to its flammability, or lack thereof, but it is effective in giving you relief.

I used it myself when I had a nasty skin weirdness going on - I'd get the sudden urge to itch my elbows that was so bad I couldn't stop myself - and I'm a very strong willed person. The rosehip oil took the itch away almost immediately.

I hope that helps :-)

Thanks I will check it out:)

The part about washing may not totally remove it is the scary part.
Could mean many ladies especially are wearing a flammable item to the restaurant for that candlelight dinner.

Yes actually never thought about candles!

Wow amazing. Never knew. Thanks for the info

You're welcome!

Thanks for the post. I'm actually looking for means to make my own homemade cream with natural ingredients.

I use organic virgin coconut oil on damp skin. It sinks in well and you can dab off the excess easily. It's also mildly anti-bacterial, so as long as you never stick your fingers in it, it lasts for ages. The only drawback is it needs to be kept in the fridge in warm weather.
In fact, any natural oils make good skin creams. I've used extra virgin olive oil before.

You're welcome - I think it is important to know what ingredients are safe and pose a similar risk.

Yea, you're right. I'll actually do a research on it. Thanks once more. Great post.

That's why you're not supposed to use hairspray or wear artificial fabric when you suspect you may be exposed to fire. Used to be common advice for air travel (go figure).

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