A grandmother died after accidentally setting fire to herself not long after putting on a flammable skin cream.
Yvonne Webb, 83, who was starting to suffer from dementia, had applied an emollient cream, which are widely used to treat dry and itchy skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis.
She then tried to light a candle at her gas stove and set herself alight at her north London home.
The pensioner ran into the street enveloped in flames where she was helped by neighbours who tried to save her.
But after being rushed to hospital for treatment, Yvonne later died.
Her grieving son, Ben Webb is backing a new campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of emollient creams.
The campaign is also designed to improve safety labelling on emollients and make sure people know how to use them safely.
Many emollients contain paraffin, petroleum or natural oils, all of which are flammable, the London Fire Brigade said.
Emollient creams are widely used to treat dry and itchy skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis.
They are often used by older people with mobility issues, who are also the group most at risk in a fire, the brigade said.
Ben said: “We aren’t sure what happened exactly, but she fled into the street where she was attended to by neighbours.
“I was at home with my son when I was called to her house. It was clear when we arrived that it was very serious and she was in an ambulance. I went with her to hospital. I’m glad I did, as it was the last time I spoke to her.”
Ben also said he was unaware of the dangers of emollient creams until his family was struck by tragedy.
He added: “Sadly, my mother was starting to suffer from dementia and certainly had no understanding of the risks of emollient creams. I too was also totally unaware.
“My mother loved her family, friends and holding parties, cooking lots of food, laughing and enjoying a knees-up.
“She was intelligent and adventurous, she loved travelling. She was also a fantastic grandmother, often looking after my two children.
“Now it’s hard to remember her life without remembering the way she died – an appalling, unnecessary way for a life to end.”
Along with Ben, London Fire Brigade and the National Fire Chiefs Council are backing the campaign by the Commission on Human Medicines, part of the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to ensure those who use emollients or care for someone who does know the fire risk they pose – and the precautions to be taken with their use.
The Commission has launched new fire risk labelling for all products in the UK classed as medicines, including many emollients.
Figures from the London Fire Brigade show that since 2017, 16 people in London died in fires where it is believed a flammable skin product was being used.
Many people do not realise that emollient residues rub off skin onto fabrics and can dry in, the fabrics can then easily catch fire. Emollients that don’t contain paraffin can also present a fire risk, the fire brigade said.
Paul Jennings, the brigade’s assistant commissioner for fire safety, said: “We know that people need to use these creams for health reasons, but we want to make sure they are used in a safe way.
“Our statistics show that older people with mobility issues, who are most vulnerable to fires, are also most likely to be prescribed creams for skin complaints.
“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.”
“We want to make sure the message is out there so we can prevent tragedies like Yvonne’s from happening again. We welcome the improved labelling on these products.”
Anyone who is unsure about these products can ask for a home fire safety visit from the brigade to help assess these risks.