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Emollients and Fire Risk

Keeping our customers safe...

Tragically, in August last year, a Trent & Dove resident died in her home after her night clothes caught fire whilst she was smoking. Her clothes had become impregnated with paraffin from regular use of an emollient cream. 

Trent & Dove want to raise awareness about the risks associated with emollient creams with all our staff, partners and residents so that you can share that knowledge with your friends and families to keep them safe.

  • What are Emollients?

    Emollients are moisturising treatments applied directly to the skin to soothe and hydrate it. They cover the skin with a protective film to trap in moisture and are widely used to help manage dry, itchy or scaly skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.

    Emollients may contain paraffin, shea or cocoa butter, beeswax, lanolin, nut oil or mineral oils. 

  • Are Emollients only prescribed by doctors?

    Emollients are commonly prescribed by GPs, nurses and other clinicians but many of these products can also be purchased over the counter in chemists and supermarkets.

  • What are the risks?

    The creams themselves are not flammable. However, with regular use, clothing, dressings and bed sheets can become impregnated with the products. This build up of residue can be highly flammable and act as an accelerant when ignited.  The resulting fires burn intensely and spread quickly.  The risk is greater when emollients are applied in large quantities or to large areas of the body.  Washing clothing and bedding may reduce product build-up but not totally remove it.

  • How can risks be reduced?

    Risks can be eliminated if emollients can be switched with water-based creams.

    If this is not possible, the following measures should be put in place:

    • Change clothes and bed sheets regularly (preferably daily) and wash them at the highest temperature recommended by the fabric care instructions. This should reduce some of the contamination but may not remove it completely.
    • Keep away from sources of ignition and naked flames (from smoking, cooking, candles, gas fires, halogen or electric heaters). Do not use emollients if you use oxygen equipment.
    • Avoid smoking (especially in bed) and do not allow others to smoke in your home.  Seek help from your GP to stop smoking or visit

You can download an A5 Flyer summarising this information here.

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