A recent review of evidence released by the government suggests that both paraffin containing and paraffin free emollients bring an increased risk of severe or fatal burns, but what truth lies behind this when we look at all the facts? We know that emollients are vital treatments for many people dealing with dry skin conditions. For these people it is seen that there is little other option for them to ease their symptoms, other than using emollients. Before getting into what has been reported, it should be noted that those using emollient products are not advised to stop using them, rather, take action to minimise the fire risk.
When emollients are frequently used residue builds up within fabrics, while these aren't necessarily seen to be the cause of the fires starting, they are known to increase the speed and intensity of fires. This can cause fires to spread faster than they should. Here lies the cause to much of the concern highlighted on the Gov.uk website. It has been noted that data showed, not only products containing over 50% paraffin had fire risks but also those products containing less than 50% paraffin have been associated with fatal burns too. Further to this, paraffin free products also have a fire accelerant effect in tests, when residue builds up on fabrics and that fabric is ignited. As a precaution it is advised that you do not smoke or go near a naked flame with any fabric which may have been in contact with emollient products, or skin on which emollient products have been used, this includes clothing, bedding, and bandages. It is recommended to wash these items at a high temperature, but it is important to note that, where this may reduce emollient build up it will not completely remove it from fabrics.
It was advised by the Commission on Human Medicines (CHM) that the risk factors associated with emollient products are far outweighed by the benefits these products have on those who need them. It has also been advised that users should read their product informational leaflet and/or the full set of instructions and information listed on the product packaging itself, before using any emollient based products. It is down to the consumer to use these products correctly and make their own decision as to whether they feel them safe to use or not.
On a whole it should be noted that, in a common home setting, there is little to worry about. A statement was issued in March of 2017 stating that fire risk related to the use of emollients is only great when the products are used in "significant amounts", that being 100g or more. Usage like this would typically only take place in a healthcare setting and not during normal use at home. The chief of The Proprietary Association of Great Britain, in the UK trade association representing manufacturers of over-the-counter medicines also made a statement. He states, "We want to reassure people that the normal use of emollients in the home is considered appropriately safe provided the products are used in accordance with the on-pack instructions and accompanying patient information leaflet".