A grandma in north London accidentally set herself on fire and died last Wednesday. The tragedy happened just after she slathered on a flammable skin cream that is widely used for the treatment of dry, itchy skin and other skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis.

83-year-old Yvonne Webb, who was also starting to suffer from dementia, was attempting to light up her gas stove with a lit candle when she set herself alight. Enveloped in flames, she fled out of her house and into the street frantically crying for help. Neighbours ran to her rescue and had her rushed to the hospital for treatment, Sadly, the ordeal was too much for the woman. She died soon after being treated.

The woman's grieving son, Ben Webb, is now rallying behind a newly launched campaign that was created to raise awareness on the dangers of emollient creams and having improved safety labeling of its ingredients.

The said campaign was set up by the Commission on Human Medicines which forms part of the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). Its goal is to ensure that consumers and carers who use these emollients are in the know about the fire risks and hazards these products pose, as well as precautions to be taken with their usage. Along with this, a new fire risk labeling has been put in place for all UK products classed as medicines. This would also include emollients as it bears down on the fact that these usually rub off skin and leave residue on clothing which dries onto the fabric. This then makes the fabric highly susceptible to catching fire.

The London Fire Brigade stands in support of the campaign stating how creams contain paraffin, petroleum and natural oils considered to be flammable in nature. They have strongly noted that these products are commonly used by older people with mobility issues which makes them even more vulnerable and at high risk in a fire.

According to LBF numbers, there were 16 recorded cases of people in London that have died in fires and were believed to have fallen victim to the use of flammable skin products.

Paul Jennings, LBF Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety has strongly pointed out the dangers of using these emollients. He says, "Those who use emollients or care for someone who does should avoid using candles or smoking unsupervised, especially if mobility issues mean they tend to drop things, become confused, or fall asleep while a candle or cigarette is lit. If a naked flame drops onto fabric which has a build-up of these products dried on to them, a fire can easily start and will burn faster and hotter than usual, leaving little time to react."

At the same time, Director of MHRA's Vigilance and Risk Management of Medicine's Division Sarah Branch also advised those who use emollients to understand the fire risks of residue build-up on one's bedding as well. The director also strongly encourages anyone "to report any issues with such products, or more generally with any medical device, to our Yellow Card Scheme"

Skin cream
Those who use skin creams containing paraffin are advised to regularly change their bedding. Flickr