Paraffin-based treatments: risk of fire hazard

Paraffin based products such as white soft paraffin can set on fire easily.

Article date: January 2008

Post-publication note: this article has been superseded. See updated information published in April 2016 for the latest advice.

Paraffin-based products such as white soft paraffin, white soft paraffin plus 50% liquid paraffin, or emulsifying ointment that have contact with dressings and clothing are ignited easily by a naked flame. This risk will be greater when these preparations are applied to large areas of the body, and when clothing or dressings become soaked with the ointment.

The National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA) is aware of a fatal incident reported to the national reporting & learning system, in which a paraffin-based skin product that was in contact with a patient’s dressings and clothing was ignited by a naked flame. The NPSA is disseminating information to clinical staff to ensure patients and carers are made aware of the risks.

The September 2007 edition of British National Formulary includes a new warning about the risk of fire associated with paraffin-based emollients.

Article citation: Drug Safety Update Jan 2008; Vol 1, Issue 6: 10

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