If you use an emollient cream to treat eczema or psoriasis or as a moisturizer for dry skin, be aware that it may pose a fire hazard if it gets onto—and builds up on—clothing or bedding, according to a British study in the Fire Safety Journal. It noted that such products have been involved in at least 37 fire deaths in the U.K. since 2010.
Researchers found that fabrics coated with dried residues of creams and lotions were much more flammable when put near an open flame than non-contaminated fabrics. Initial findings indicted products containing paraffin ingredients (such as petroleum jelly and mineral oil), but subsequent testing found that paraffin-free products can also make fabrics more flammable.
Note that the products are not a fire hazard on their own or on skin—only when they get on fabric and are exposed to high heat, as from candles, stoves, or burning cigarettes. Washing fabric at high temperature will usually remove most or all of the residue.
This article first appeared in the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter.
Also see Moisturizers: Slippery Claims.