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The potential fire risk of emollients when dried on viscose bandages

02 February 2023
Volume 28 · Issue 2



the potential fire risk of fabrics impregnated with emollients has been described within the health service, including ignition of bandages. The role of emollients in fire fatalities have also been included in coroner reports, as accelerating fires when present.


although changes in burning behaviour is known, no standard tests have been carried out on bandages which are often used in conjunction with emollients.


using a standard vertical flammability test, the flammability of viscose bandage was compared to when impregnated with nine dried on emollients with low to high and non-paraffin content.


the time to ignition was significantly reduced with an emollient present and the glowing time was longer.


the same safety advice applies to viscose bandages as other fabrics with emollients; do not expose them to naked flames or high heat sources or allow emollients to build up on bandages.

Emollients are a widely prescribed treatment for a range of dermatological conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and xerosis dermatitis, which are characterised by pruritic, bumpy or scaly skin (Croney, 2016). The term emollients and moisturisers are often used synchronously by healthcare professionals and can be defined as a medical treatment that restores and promotes hydration to the skin (Oxford University Hospitals, 2012). Conditions can range from mild to severe, with some individuals experiencing flare-ups and inflammation that can be managed by routinely applying emollients to the affected areas (Casha, 2022). In the UK, the NHS annually spends around £83 million on prescribing emollients and barrier creams to patients (Greener, 2018). Emollients are available in several formulations, such as creams, lotions, gels, sprays and ointments, which can be prescribed for both day- and night-time use.

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