Creams used to treat skin conditions may by linked to hundreds of deaths, a senior firefighter has warned.
Chris Bell, a watch commander with West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service based at Huddersfield Fire Station, said paraffin-based creams - used to treat a variety of skin conditions, including eczema and psoriasis - are safe to use.
But he warned they can become flammable when they soak into fabrics such as clothing, bandages and dressings, that then come into contact with a cigarette, naked flame or other heat source.
“Hundreds of thousands of people use them. We’re not sure how many fire deaths might have occurred but it could be into the hundreds,” he told the BBC.
Last year the Examiner reported on the tragic case of Pauline Taylor, of Primrose Hill, who died after dropping a cigarette which started a fire that intensified due to paraffin-based creams she used to treat arthritis.
The great-grandmother was aged 74 and suffered from arthritis in her hands and psoriasis, which was treated with a paraffin-based emollient cream.
Mr Bell’s comments come after an investigation by BBC 5 live Investigates and Inside Out Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, due to be broadcast on Monday night at 7.30pm on BBC One, found only seven of 38 products containing paraffin that are licensed in the UK carry warnings on their packaging.
He and his colleagues at WYFRS, together with Mrs Taylor’s family, are highlighting the dangers in a bid to reduce deaths.
He said: “People are using paraffin-based skin products to treat eczema and psoriasis and various other skin creams, putting it all over their bodies and different parts of themselves - treating themselves for those different skin conditions.
“But unfortunately, that cream can get into fabrics, clothing, bandages and dressings, and become flammable.
“The creams are safe to use in their own right, but if that person is exposed to a naked flame or some other heat source, they can go up.”
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency advises patients using paraffin-based products not to smoke, use naked flames, or go near anything that may cause a fire while creams are in contact with dressings or clothing.
At the inquest into Mrs Taylor’s death assistant coroner Mary Burke said: “Mrs Taylor died as a result of injuries sustained in the fire on her bed which was caused by Mrs Taylor unintentionally dropping a lit cigarette or match.
“It was likely intensified by paraffin-based creams on her person, bedding and nightwear and polyurethane on the mattress in her bed.”
In a statement released after the inquest, her daughters Deborah and Tracey Wadsworth said: “She was the first person in Kirklees to have died due to a combination of smoking in bed while using supportive cushions, an air mattress and paraffin-based creams. We are going to work closely with the West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service to help raise awareness of this danger.”