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Philips CPAP Side Effects

Continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, is a commonly used treatment for a condition known as sleep apnea, in which a person stops breathing many times during the night. A CPAP device is worn at night to help keep the airways open and can make a significant difference in quality of life as well as decrease the risk of serious health issues linked to sleep apnea.  

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Many people depend on their CPAP machines to get a good night’s sleep. However, a recent recall has impacted the lives of countless CPAP users. Philips, a large multinational corporation that manufactures medical devices, announced in June 2021 that it was recalling over 15 million devices, including CPAP machines. Users of these recalled devices are at risk of experiencing a variety of health problems, which could be serious or even life-threatening. 

What caused the Philips CPAP recall?

A CPAP device pushes air into the respiratory system through a mask. This requires the use of fans and motors, which tend to be noisy and may create vibrations in the device. Because the purpose of CPAP is to help users sleep well, excessive noise would be counterproductive, so Philips added a noise-dampening foam to the device. The type of foam that they chose is called polyester-based polyurethane, or PE-PUR.  

Unfortunately, PE-PUR foam is not particularly durable, and it tends to break down over time. The use of certain types of CPAP cleaning devices, such as those that use ultraviolet (UV) light or ozone, contributes to the breakdown of foam. Hot and humid conditions also accelerate this breakdown. 

When this foam breaks down, multiple small foam particles can pass from the CPAP device into the user’s nose and mouth. These can cause health problems when inhaled or swallowed. In addition, when PE-PUR foam breaks down, a variety of different chemicals can be released. Some of these are highly toxic and can lead to serious health problems. 

What are the side effects of exposure to a recalled Philips CPAP device?

Users of a recalled CPAP device experience two major categories of side effects. Some are related to the small particles of foam that enter the airstream of the device, while others are related to the chemicals released by the breakdown of foam. 

Side Effects Related to Particulates 

Particles of PE-PUR foam that make their way to the user’s CPAP mask can cause irritation to the face and can be inhaled or swallowed. These particulates can be highly irritating to the respiratory and digestive systems, and the side effects of this may include: 

  • Headache 
  • Irritation of the throat or upper airway 
  • Cough 
  • Asthma 
  • Skin and eye irritation
  • Inflammatory response, which can lead to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases
  • Kidney and liver toxicity 

Side Effects Related to Chemicals 

When PE-PUR foam breaks down, the physical particles of foam are not the only issue. The foam’s breakdown can also release several different chemicals, which are then inhaled by the user. Some of the side effects related to this chemical exposure may include: 

  • Headache 
  • Dizziness 
  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Hypersensitivity, which causes the immune system to overreact to harmless substances 
  • Skin and eye irritation
  • Irritation of the nose and other parts of the respiratory tract
  • Toxic effects throughout the body, including in the digestive and nervous systems 

In addition to the effects listed above, some of these chemicals are known to be carcinogenic. They are linked to a variety of different types of cancer, including lung cancer, liver cancer, kidney cancer, lymphoma, and leukemia. 

What are the side effects of CPAP in general?

Although these effects may result from exposure to the broken-down products of PE-PUR foam, all CPAP machines can cause certain side effects. The occurrence of these side effects is similar in the recalled machines and other CPAP devices. Some of the common side effects of CPAP in general include: 

  • Dry mouth and nose 
  • Stuffy or runny nose 
  • Skin irritation or pain where the mask presses into your face
  • Red or itchy eyes
  • Bloating, excessive flatulence, or heartburn, related to swallowing air from the device
  • Sleep disturbances from device noises or the mask leaking air into your face 

CPAPs can also increase the risk of airway infections. This is why it is very important to clean your device properly. Make sure you use an approved cleaning device. The use of certain unapproved cleaning devices, which use ultraviolet light or ozone, can accelerate the breakdown of PE-PUR foam.  

Side effects like these don’t necessarily indicate your CPAP machine has an issue. These are all known side effects of CPAP therapy in general. Bring the issue up with your doctor, who may be able to create a plan to reduce your CPAP side effects. 

How can you tell whether the foam in your Philips CPAP machine is breaking down?

If you use a Philips CPAP machine, reading about the recall will likely worry you about the safety of your device. Most people want to know how to figure out whether their CPAP machine has been exposing them to toxic foam particles and chemicals. 

The first step is to find out whether your CPAP machine is among those that were included in the recall. You can check our list of included devices to see if yours is among them. It is also recommended that you register your device with Philips directly on their site. If your device is included in the recall, Philips will repair or replace it. However, this can take quite some time because there are so many customers affected by the recall.  

You can also look for evidence that the foam in your device may have started breaking down. You may see small black particles or debris in your device’s air pathways. However, even if you don’t see particles, this doesn’t mean they were never present in your machine. In addition, the chemicals released by the foam’s breakdown are not visible, so you won’t be able to look for those. 

If you’ve been using a CPAP device that was recalled, it is generally recommended that you stop using it, even if you don’t see any of these problems in your machine. If you want to continue using CPAP, you can try ordering a different one. However, this large-scale recall has led to a shortage of CPAP machines in general, and some patients have found that getting a new device is difficult. 

You should talk with your doctor about whether to stop using your current one immediately or to continue using it until you can get a new one. For most CPAP patients, doctors recommend stopping the use of the recalled machine immediately. 

What can you do if you’ve been harmed by a Philips CPAP machine?

Because of this issue with their CPAP machines, lawsuits have been filed against Philips. The suits allege that the company knew about the problems with the PE-PUR foam years ago but waited to issue a recall until June 2021, which led to some people experiencing unnecessary and avoidable harm. These lawsuits seek  compensation to help people pay for the medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses that resulted from the faulty machines. 

If you are among the millions of people affected by this recall, we encourage you to contact an attorney with experience in the field of product liability. This will allow you to learn more about these types of lawsuits and determine whether you are eligible and interested in filing one. There are time limitations that restrict when legal proceedings can be initiated, so don’t wait to get in contact with a lawyer to learn more.