Clothing, bedding, bandages, and other fabric can become flammable when they absorb the cream, meaning they are highly dangerous if exposed to a naked flame or other sources of heat.
Firefighter Chris Bell, a watch commander with West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, said that because “hundreds of thousands of people use [the creams]," the fire service could not be sure how many deaths may have been directly caused by them, "but it could be into the hundreds,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live, which investigated the issue.
Most paraffin-based creams do not carry health and safety warnings, but the UK medical regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), said it was currently reviewing the safety information included on packaging.
The agency asked manufacturers to add fire risk warnings to their products last year, but Radio 5 Live's investigation found that just seven of the 38 paraffin products licensed in the UK currently include warnings. Manufacturers told the BBC that many other producers were in the process of adding warnings.
People who use paraffin-based creams have been advised by the MHRA to avoid smoking and to steer clear of naked flames and other heat sources, such as heaters, while their skin is in contact with clothing or other fabric.