Fire and Skin Cream

The BBC has a warning this morning about skin creams containing paraffin.

If people use the creams regularly but do not often change clothes or bedding, paraffin residue can soak into the fabric and act as an accelerant when it comes into contact with a cigarette or a flame from a heater.(1)

The BBC has identified 37 deaths attributable to these skin creams, but that may be the tip of the iceberg. Skin creams don’t appear to be a common subject of fire investigations, and of course, a lot of the evidence simply burns.

In looking into this, I came across an older US article on the causes of death in fires.(2) It’s good reading for the scientific or the morbid. I’m looking for an update.

the US has made substantial progress in reducing fires and fire deaths since 2006, but the number appears to have stabilized and started increasing in the last two years.(3)

US Fire Statistics



  1. , “Warning hundreds of fire deaths may be linked to skin creams,” 11 February 2018.
  2. John Nichols, Robert Irwin & Mark Merlin, “A Fatal Fire Investigation: The Medical Perspective,” Fire Engineering, 1 March 2007.


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