London Fire Brigade issues warning over skin creams deaths

Hilda Batten Image copyright London Fire Brigade
Image caption Hilda Batten died after she accidently set herself alight in 2016

Fifteen people have died in London over the last three years after flammable skin cream caught alight on clothing, London Fire Brigade (LFB) has said.

The brigade said between 5 March 2013 and 12 October 2016, emollient cream had been found to be present in the deaths of 15 people.

It is believed the creams, which contain paraffin and petroleum bases, can act like a wick if ignited.

Medicine regulators say emollient creams should carry warnings.

Hilda Batten, from Earlsfield, died after she accidently set herself alight in 2016.

Ms Batten, who was a regular smoker, suffered from multiple sclerosis (MS) and had creams applied to her skin every day for a number of years.

Image caption LFB said creams which contain paraffin and petroleum bases can act like a wick

Hilda's niece, Val Hamilton, said nobody had ever warned her aunt about the dangers of using emollient creams while smoking.

"Knowing about the risks now is too little too late. They should put a warning on the packaging, people should be given guidelines about its usage," Ms Hamilton said.

Dan Daly, LFB's assistant commissioner for fire safety, said: "It's a horrific reality but if you're wearing creams with flammable ingredients and you accidently drop ash or a match, you are literally setting yourself on fire.

"Dropping cigarettes or matches onto clothing is dangerous but when flammable creams are involved, this really increases the chance of a fire starting and becoming much more intense."

Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which regulates medicines and medical devices in the UK, said all creams containing paraffin should carry a flammability warning.

The agency said the creams "are important skin treatments used by many patients" and it was working with companies to ensure safety messages are included in product information.

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