Skin creams containing paraffin linked to fire deaths

Dry skin and other skins conditions are common in thyroid disorders. I'd imagine a significant number of people here use various creams and similar to help their skin symptoms.

Was somewhat surprised that this issue has popped up today, but it is obviously potentially concerning.

Specific products mentioned are E45 and Cetraben but you'll obviously have to read the labelling to find out which whether the products you use (whatever make or brand) contain paraffin.

Skin creams containing paraffin linked to fire deaths

By Adrian Goldberg & Ben Robinson 5 live Investigates

Skin creams containing paraffin have been linked to dozens of fire deaths across England, the BBC has learned.

The products for conditions like eczema and psoriasis can leave people at risk of setting themselves ablaze.

If people use the creams regularly but do not often change clothes or bedding, paraffin residue can soak into the fabric, making it flammable.

The medicines regulator has updated its guidance and says all creams containing paraffin should carry a warning.

Despite warnings going back more than 10 years, BBC Radio 5 live Investigates has discovered there have been 37 deaths in England since 2010 linked to the creams.

Rest of BBC report here:

MHRA 2016 link (though from the main story, it appears that they are changing this advice):

[ Added: Be wary of making any assumptions that non-paraffin waxes and oils are entirely safe. Maybe we'll see some sort of ranking? Maybe paraffin will be at the top? But seems likely that these other substances will at best be less dangerous rather than without any potential danger. ]

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13 Replies

  • Good lord! I would never have thought of that! How awful.

  • It would be ironic to escape death due to hypothyroidism by a hairs breadth only to succumb to spontaneous combustion treating parchment like skin with lashings of cetraben that accidentally impregnates bedding etc . It is one way to goad me into action with the heavily laden and hazardous laundry basket! Thanks for the warning.

  • And another symptom I'd thought was just me...dry skin. I lape on handfuls of moisturiser during the day, but will have to gander at labelling as closely as I do my food! Thanks for the heads-up, helvella :-)

  • The main danger is to smokers ,lighting up in bed or in one case highlighted sneakng out of a hospital ward to have a fag and wind taking the lighter flame which led to 90% burns and death .There seem to be a lack of warning on some products despite the danger being known for over a decade.

  • The CCS foot cream I often use says it contains paraffinum liquidum - a nice way of Latinising the name.

    I agree that smoking, and its associated parapheralia, does seem very important. I'd point out that the widespread use of various candles, and burners for essential oils, etc., will have their own potential for causing ignition.

    The criterion should not be whether the ingredient is called paraffin (in English, Latin or any other language), but its effect on flammability.

  • After reading this post had a look at argan oil butter cream I slap on all over body after my shower and it has paraffin in it , than goodness I don't smoke. Thanks Helvella for bringing this to our attention.

  • Rather topical for me, but for another reason.

    I was prescribed Centraben last week. As usual with something new, I googled before getting the prescription made up. I was not happy about liquid paraffin plus soft white paraffin, but also concerned that it contains four different Parabens, three of which are at the top of the "avoid like the plague" list. Considering I was to use this muck in a .....ahem..... rather delicate place, I decided to not have the prescription made up after all.

    During the two weeks I had to wait to see my GP, in considerable discomfort and at times pain, I had self treated firstly with Manuka honey to heal followed by Aloe Vera gel, so by the time I saw the doctor I wasn't as bad as when I made the appointment.

    Looking for a more natural alternative to Centraben, I discovered a cream that is used for exactly the same conditions that Centraben is prescribed for and guess what it contains? Manuka honey, Aloe Vera, coconut oil, shea butter, and other nice organic natural ingredients. It has arrived and I am much happier putting that in my delicate place than the poisonous, dangerous muck prescribed.

    After reading your warning helvella I'm doubly sure that I made the right decision. Thank you for your very important warning. It's scary, very scary :(

  • Hi Susie, the NHS loves to hand out really toxic and useless medication. It's cheap and that's where the money is.

  • Hi SeasideSusie on the FB account of The National Psoriasis I saw a artical about an actress who used Olive Oil for her delicate place I have tried it and it does work for me, just thought I'd mention wish I could find it on FB. Good luck

  • If bedding can catch fire, there must be an awful lot of paraffin residue such that a static electric spark will create a conflagration.

    This reminds me of flesh eating disease in the elderly: a combination of very poor hygiene/dirty clothing and aspirin.

  • From a nursing perspective, paraffin based creams are very effective for when the skin isn't doing what it should be doing!

    From a fire club juggling perspective, if you add boric acid to your paraffin mixture the flame is nice and green! Incidentally, Boric acid can be found as a preservative in urine sample collection tubes. I wouldn't recommend juggling fire clubs whilst wearing anything flammable, including emollient!

  • Oh my what next? I was at one point Liquid Paraffin 50% and White Soft Paraffin 50% I would plaster myself in it . I have recently found a lovely Aqueous Cream 500ml from Home Bargins of all places at 99 pence a tub i find it is good on my skin and needless to say I have stocked up on it . It does however Cetearyl Alcohol, Paraffinum Liquidum, Petrolatum along with other ingredients I do not understand. Think I'll be careful about leaving it in the sun.

  • Petrolatum is, petty much, another name for Vaseline or petroleum jelly. Might be some highly specific standard it has to conform to, but for us ordinary folk here, that is close enough.

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