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CPAP Cancer Risk

In June 2021, Philips, a multinational corporation that manufactures medical devices, announced that it was recalling millions of breathing machines, including CPAPs as well as other related products (such as ventilators and bi-level positive airway pressure, or BiPAP, devices). The faulty devices caused a variety of side effects, including some serious health issues. They also created an increased risk of cancer for users.

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Do CPAP machines cause cancer?

The announcement of the recall left many people who use CPAP machines wondering whether they are at risk of getting cancer. This has caused anxiety for many people and has even led some to wonder whether they should stop using their CPAP. 

If your CPAP is not among those affected by the recall, you have no reason to worry. CPAP treatment, in general, is not associated with an increased risk of cancer. Although CPAP can cause side effects, these are normally minor. The risk of cancer is not intrinsic to CPAP itself but rather was created by issues related to the specific materials used in certain Philips CPAP machines.

Why were Philips CPAP machines recalled?

The issue with the Philips CPAP devices is related to a certain type of foam used to dampen the noise and vibrations that occur while the machine is running. Philips chose a particular type of foam known as polyester-polyurethane, or PE-PUR, but PE-PUR foam is not particularly durable and can break down over time. The foam breakdown is accelerated under hot and humid conditions and is also accelerated by the use of certain CPAP cleaning devices that use ultraviolet light or ozone to sterilize the machine. 

When PE-PUR foam breaks down, it can cause two major issues. One is that, due to the device’s design, the small particles of foam can enter the air pathways. These particles can then be blown into the mask of the device and then inhaled or swallowed by the user. The other issue is that when PE-PUR foam breaks down, it releases a variety of chemicals, some of which are toxic. This is known as off-gassing. It occurs to some degree even in new PE-PUR foam, and Philips has stated that off-gassing may continue for as long as the device is used.

Do recalled Philips CPAP machines cause cancer?

It’s important to emphasize that this recall is a relatively recent event. It takes many years to do the research necessary to accurately determine all of the health risks, including cancers, that are associated with exposure to a defective Philips CPAP machine. It will be some time before we know the exact magnitude of the health risks posed by these devices, and we may discover additional health risks we don’t currently know about. 

However, we can extrapolate from what we do know about PE-PUR foam and the chemicals released when it breaks down. According to research conducted by Philips, when PE-PUR foam breaks down, it can unleash a variety of compounds, including:  

  • Toluenediamine, which has been classified as a “probable human carcinogen” by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 

 Several other potentially toxic chemicals were also detected, many of which can cause a variety of serious health effects. These are the primary carcinogens found. 

Based on the available data, a defective Philips CPAP device does have the potential to cause cancer. The company is certainly aware of this possibility. When it announced the recall, Philips listed “carcinogenic effects” as one of the “potential risks” of both particulate exposure and chemical exposure due to off-gassing.

What types of cancer are associated with Philips CPAP machines?

Again, we will learn more about exactly what types of cancer are associated with Philips CPAP machines as future studies conclude. However, based on the studies that have been done to date, toluenediamine and toluene diisocyanate are linked to the following: 

  • Liver cancer 
  • Breast cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Lymphoma
  • Leukemia
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Brain cancer 

Swallowed particles of PE-PUR foam are also believed to be potentially carcinogenic. In its safety communication about the recall, the FDA indicated that ingested particles of the foam could cause “toxic or cancer-causing effects to organs, such as kidneys and liver.”  

Although these types of cancer have been linked to chemicals released by PE-PUR foam in studies, this list may not be exhaustive. Additional types of cancer could be linked to this issue. Studies are ongoing to determine the specifics of the health risks posed by the defective Philips CPAP machines.

Have people died from using recalled Philips CPAP machines?

When it first announced the recall in June 2021, Philips stated that the company had “not received reports of life-threatening injury or death due to this issue.” However, since the recall was announced, the situation has changed. In its most recent safety communication in May 2022, the FDA indicated that it has received over 21,000 reports of an actual or potentially serious injury related to the Philips CPAP devices, including reports of 124 deaths. The FDA is now reviewing these cases, which will likely take some time to complete.

How do you know if your CPAP has been recalled?

Philips has recalled the following devices, manufactured on or before April 26, 2021: 

  • A-Series BiPAP A30
  • A-Series BiPAP A40 (ventilator)
  • A-Series BiPAP Hybrid A30
  • A-Series BiPAP V30 Auto (ventilator)
  • C-Series ASV (ventilator)
  • C-Series S/T and AVAPS
  • DreamStation
  • DreamStation ASV
  • DreamStation Go
  • DreamStation ST, AVAPS
  • Dorma 400
  • Dorma 500
  • E30
  • Garbin Plus, Aeris, LifeVent (ventilator)
  • OmniLab Advanced+
  • REMstar SE Auto
  • SystemOne ASV4
  • SystemOne (Q-Series)
  • Trilogy 100 (ventilator)
  • Trilogy 200 (ventilator) 

If you are not sure whether your device is included, you can register it on the Philips website. 

What should you do if you used a recalled Philips CPAP machine?

The first step is to register your device. If your device has been affected, then Philips will repair or replace it. The repair process involves removing the PE-PUR foam and replacing it with silicone-based foam instead. However, patients need to know that the FDA has expressed potential safety concerns over the replacement foam as well. This new foam failed one safety test and may also release certain harmful chemicals. Although this issue has not yet been thoroughly investigated, patients may want to be aware of this information before they decide to use the repaired device. However, at this time, the FDA is not recommending patients stop using their repaired devices. 

It may take some time to receive a new or repaired  CPAP machine. You could try to get another brand of CPAP, but many patients have found that this is difficult, as the recall has created a shortage of CPAP machines. This could mean that your options are to continue using your defective CPAP until you can get a new one or to go without CPAP therapy for a period of time and live with the effects of untreated sleep apnea. Either of these choices could carry risks for your health. Some potential alternative treatments for sleep apnea exist, such as oral appliance therapy. You should discuss this issue with your doctor to decide which option is best for you.  

If you have experienced health issues that may be connected to the use of your Philips CPAP, including cancer, we urge you to contact an experienced product liability attorney. Lawsuits against Philips related to these CPAP devices are ongoing. You possibly could receive financial compensation to help pay for the medical bills related to your faulty CPAP and to cover your pain and suffering. If a loved one of yours died from a condition that could be related to a Philips CPAP, such as cancer, then you may also be eligible for compensation. 

Due to the statute of limitations, you have a limited time after a serious medical event to file a lawsuit against the manufacturer responsible for making the faulty product. As such, it’s important not to delay. If you wait too long, you may lose the opportunity to seek justice for the harm that you experienced. 

 At Levin Perconti, we have years of experience in the field of product liability and have had significant success at bringing to justice companies that harmed people’s health through their negligence. You can contact us through the chat box at the bottom right of this page, by calling us at 312-584-8664, or by filling out our website contact form. Don’t worry about how much a lawyer will cost; we only get paid if we win your case. Again, don’t delay, or you may lose your opportunity to seek justice.