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What CPAP Machines Are Causing Cancer?

Written by Ankin Law Office

Certain types of Philips CPAP machines may cause a variety of cancers due to their polyurethane foam content, leading to a nationwide recall. As a result, individuals may qualify for compensation in a Philips lawsuit if they developed cancer because of these devices, and it’s important to avoid these specific Philips products.

CPAP Recall Due to Cancer Risk

Recently, Philips issued a recall because of the discovered link between certain Philips CPAP devices and an increased risk of cancer and other health issues. Although Philips CPAP machines don’t typically cause cancer, specific products contain a carcinogenic substance that has posed a risk to users.

The products involved in the Philips CPAP recall include a variety of CPAP, BiPAP, and ventilator machines that contain a polyester-based substance known as polyurethane (PE-PUR) sound abatement foam. This foam helps to reduce sound and vibration when users equip these devices. Over time, the PE-PUR foam begins to break down. The resulting gases and particles that the foam releases could lead to the development of cancer and other health problems upon entering the body.

Some of the specific health risks that can result from ingesting or inhaling these PE-PUR particles or gases include airway irritation and inflammation, nausea, vomiting, headache, dizziness, hypersensitivity, toxic and carcinogenic effects, and skin, nose, eye, or respiratory tract irritation.

Why Do People Need CPAP Machines?

While the Philips recall has many concerns over the safety of CPAP machines, most of these devices are safe to use and can help treat sleep apnea.

If individuals have a diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), their doctors will likely recommend that they use a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine to treat this condition. Some may be reluctant to use these devices because of their bulky size and generally unappealing appearance, but they can help improve people’s quality of sleep and potentially save their lives.

For individuals suffering from OSA, obstructions within the airway cause pause in breathing known as apnea. These pauses could last for multiple seconds at a time and cause difficulty breathing. In these instances, patients can wear a CPAP machine that fits over their nose or both the mouth and nose. In the process, the device applies a certain amount of continuous pressure to patients’ airways, which helps keep them open and prevents obstructions from developing overnight.

The Risks Associated with Untreated OSA

Without the use of a CPAP machine or another type of treatment, patients with OSA could experience a number of symptoms and health issues.

Hypertension

Some studies have found that many people with this condition suffer from hypertension or high blood pressure. This develops when blood travels through the arteries with high levels of force. Over time, if left untreated, hypertension could cause damage to blood vessels and the heart, along with more serious conditions.

Congestive Heart Failure

Additionally, untreated sleep apnea could eventually lead to congestive heart failure (CHF). This condition will develop when the heart is unable to pump a sufficient level of oxygenated blood throughout the body. The body then experiences fluid buildup in the legs, lungs, and ankles, which can cause breathing difficulties.

Arrhythmias

OSA could also cause heart arrhythmias, including a condition known as atrial fibrillation. This involves an irregular, quivering, and occasionally rapid heartbeat. These arrhythmias in combination with apnea could cause sudden death.

Coronary Artery Disease

Sleep apnea could also contribute to coronary artery disease (CAD), which entails the buildup of plaque on artery walls, making them narrow and preventing blood from flowing to the heart. As a result, patients may experience a heart attack and premature death.

Stroke

Individuals with sleep apnea may also suffer from a stroke, which could lead to serious disability or death. Additionally, sleep apnea could make it more difficult for people to recover from the effects of a stroke.

All of these conditions ultimately result from deprivation of oxygen in the heart, which could cause a person’s cardiovascular system to weaken over time until serious conditions develop. This is why it’s important for people to wear CPAP devices or seek alternative treatment for sleep apnea.

What CPAP/BiPAP/ASV Machines Have Been Recalled?

Philips, the manufacturer of the CPAP devices containing the PE-PUR foam, issued a recall on June 14, 2021, for multiple products. The specific CPAP machines causing cancer included:

  • Dorma 400/500 CPAP
  • DreamStation CPAP, Auto CPAP, BiPAP
  • DreamStation GO CPAP and APAP
  • DreamStation ASV
  • DreamStation SV/AVAPS
  • SystemOne Q Series

Other devices recalled include: REMStar SE Auto CPAP, SystemOne ASV4, C Series ASV, S/T, AVAPS, E30 Continuous Ventilator, OmniLab Advanced Plus In-Lab Titration Device, Trilogy 100 Ventilator, Trilogy 200 Ventilator, A-Series BiPAP V30 Auto, A-Series BiPAP V30 (not marketed in the U.S.), A-Series BiPAP Hybrid A30 (not marketed in the U.S.), and Garbin Plus, Aeris, LifeVent Ventilator.

What Cancers Can a Philips CPAP Machine Cause?

Researchers haven’t conclusively determined what types of cancer the foam in Philips’s CPAP machines cause. However, dangerous levels of exposure to these foam materials could lead to an increased risk of organ cancers, including liver and kidney cancer, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The majority of cancers likely result from exposure to chemicals found in PE-PUR foam. The chemicals in this foam include isocyanates, which are a type of carcinogen that has caused cancer in animal populations. Isocyanates may also cause lung problems and asthma, along with a potential increase in the risk of lung cancer. Additionally, these compounds may affect the nose, skin, eyes, and throat. 

Researchers have also found links between polyurethane and non-Hodgkin lymphoma and rectal cancer.

Some of the specific cancers that the recalled CPAP units may contribute to include: Bladder cancer, brain cancer, breast cancer, leukemia, liver cancer, lung cancer, hematopoietic cancer, kidney cancer, lymphatic cancer, multiple myeloma, nasal cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, prostate cancer, papillary carcinoma, stomach cancer, rectal cancer, thyroid cancer, and testicular cancer.

Why Is PE-PUR Foam Dangerous?

When PE-PUR foam is in solid form, it’s generally harmless to CPAP users. However, if the foam begins to break down, it will begin to generate harmful gases and particles, according to data from Philips. When users inhale or ingest these substances, they may be at risk of certain cancers and other health issues.

The breakdown of PE-PUR foam into particles may not be visible, making it less obvious to users when they’re at risk of exposure.

Philips discovered a number of chemicals that the degraded foam produced during CPAP machine use, including a variety of isocyanates. They are as follows:

Toluene diisocyanate

This is a chemical that manufacturers use to produce coatings and foams. Some potential health hazards associated with this chemical include: Skin irritation, eye damage, respiratory tract irritation, and cancer. It can also be fatal if inhaled.

Toulene diamine

This chemical helps produce polyurethane, along with hydraulic fluid, dyes, and explosive material sensitizers. The health risks associated with this chemical include: Skin reactions, toxicity, cancer, organ damage, damaged fertility, and genetic defects.

Diethylene glycol

Other chemicals rely on this chemical to produce them. It may cause irritation of the eyes, skin, and mucous membranes. When swallowed, it’s also slightly toxic.

Dimethyl diazene

Like diethylene glycol, this chemical helps produce other chemicals.

Phenol, 2,6-bis (1,1-dimethylethyl)-4-(1-methylpropyl)

This chemical also helps with the production of other chemicals.

Symptoms of Exposure to Philips CPAP Machine Foam Particles

The symptoms that people might experience with Philips’s CPAP machines are often typical of those experienced with all types of CPAP treatment. The symptoms experienced with the recalled CPAP machines, on the other hand, tend to be more severe in nature.

Leading up to the recall, Philips received multiple reports of various symptoms that customers experienced with their devices, which resulted from the gases and particles the devices produced when the PE-PUR foam began to break down. Some symptoms associated with these devices include: Cough, headache, chest pressure, upper airway irritation, and sinus infection.

Customers also reported other side effects, including irritation of the respiratory tract, eyes, and nose. Others included asthma, headache, and adverse effects to certain organs, such as the liver and kidneys.

Other Potential Health Risks of Inhaling PE-PUR Foam Chemical Emissions

While PE-PUR foam chemicals could cause various types of cancers, they may also cause other types of health problems. These include irritation and inflammation of the airway, along with heart and lung problems. Individuals who have existing problems with the lungs and heart or underlying diseases affecting the lungs are more susceptible to these health issues.

During testing of its products, Philips determined that the gases the devices produced reached unsafe exposure levels, with the ability for these chemicals to cause a range of symptoms, such as headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and general irritation.

Some of the other health problems that may result from exposure to the harmful chemicals in these products are:

  • Chemical poisoning
  • Acute Respiratory Distress System (ARDS)
  • Reactive Airway Disease (RAD)
  • Heart attack and failure
  • Pleural Effusion
  • Inflammation and irritation of the ears, nose, throat, and skin

How Many CPAP Devices Did Philips Recall?

Approximately two to three million different devices were involved in the recall, including Philips CPAP, Bi-PAP, and AVS machines that help treat sleep apnea and other types of respiratory conditions. The majority of those devices were sold in the U.S.

What Should People Do if Philips Recalled Their CPAP Devices?

Upon issuing the recall, Philips advised individuals to stop using the recalled devices immediately and to discuss certain alternatives with their doctors. Depending on the specific circumstances involved, users of the recalled devices have one or more options available to them regarding both alternatives and potential compensation.

Alternative Devices, Practices, and Procedures

If Philips customers used a recalled device, they can speak with their physician to discuss a potential alternative treatment, which could involve the use of another CPAP device, surgical procedures, or practices. In addition to other CPAP machines, potential alternatives may include:

Nasal Expiratory Positive Airway Pressure

A nasal expiratory positive airway pressure (nEPAP) device is a product intended for one-time use to improve breathing during sleep. Patients insert the device into their nostrils prior to sleeping. Overnight, it provides positive pressure when the user exhales and prevents the upper airway from collapsing.

Tongue Retaining Devices

These devices help keep the tongue positioned forward to prevent it from blocking the airway. A tongue retaining device could also help minimize the number of apnea events that patients experience. However, many patients prefer mandibular advancement devices over these.

Mandibular Advancement Devices

These are devices that cover the upper and lower teeth while sleeping. This helps keep the jaw in a position that allows for better breathing. Mandibular advancement devices are quiet, cost-effective, and easy to use, but they’re most ideal for patients with mild OSA or occasional OSA based on sleep position.

Orofacial Therapy

This is a type of therapy for the muscles in the mouth and face that can help reduce instances of apnea. Orofacial therapy helps patients learn about how to correctly position their tongue to prevent it from blocking the airway. Additionally, individuals will be able to learn how to strengthen and control the muscles in their lips, tongue, face, and soft palate.

Surgery

If children have OSA, they may simply require the removal of adenoids and tonsils to treat this condition. In adults, other options are available, depending on the individual’s needs.

Some surgeries include:

  • Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty — This surgery involves removing a certain amount of tissue from areas around the upper airway. 
  • Maxilomandibular Advancement (MMA) — This procedure repositions the upper and lower jawbones to prevent blockage of the airways.
  • Tracheostomy — This procedure entails the development of a hole in a person’s windpipe, after which surgeons insert a tube to improve breathing.

Exercise and Weight Loss

For some, the option of losing weight and exercising regularly may help treat OSA. Obesity is one of the risk factors associated with OSA, with studies showing that weight loss can significantly reduce the severity of this condition. When attempting this practice, it’s important for individuals to work with endocrinologists or obesity medicine specialists to assist with treatment.

Changing Sleep Position

Another way to treat OSA is to change a person’s sleep position. Generally, sleeping on the back increases the number of apnea events for people with OSA, which results from the tongue and larynx blocking the airway. Sleeping on the side can help reduce the number of apnea events at night. Some devices can alert individuals when they’re sleeping on their back to help them readjust their position.

Reducing Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol can make OSA symptoms worse for patients. Combined with weight loss and change of sleep position, elimination or reduction of alcohol intake could help treat OSA.

Seeking Compensation

If an individual has received a diagnosis of one or more of the cancers or other health problems associated with the recalled Philips CPAP machines, they may be able to seek compensation in a product liability case. 

A CPAP recall lawyer may be able to help prove whether affected CPAP devices contributed to an illness and the resulting damages. A qualified attorney may help collect evidence supporting the patient’s arguments and determine what product liability damages are available to them. 

Depending on the case, there are several types of damages that victims may be able to recover, including medical bills, lost wages, lost earning capacity due to disability, and any pain and suffering experienced because of CPAP machine-related illnesses or other types of dangerous defective products

The right attorney will help determine if individuals have a viable case and may provide representation to help recover full compensation for any damages. They may also be able to represent the families of loved ones if an individual was a victim of wrongful death due to the conditions attributed to a recalled Philips CPAP, Bi-PAP, or ASV device. They’ll be able to help victims and their loved ones understand every aspect of their case and represent them through the claim or lawsuit process.

Ultimately, if a person has developed cancer or another health problem and they can prove that a CPAP machine caused or contributed to it, it’s possible for victims to receive full monetary compensation for all damages sustained, including both economic and non-economic damages.

It’s important to keep in mind that users of the recalled CPAP machines have a limited amount of time to file a lawsuit, which is why they should begin the filing process as soon as possible if they believe they have a valid case.

Getting Around the Philips Recall

Many patients relied on Philips CPAP machines to treat sleep apnea and other conditions, but the recall of many of their products has left people seeking alternatives. Additionally, many people have illnesses that may have directly resulted from CPAP use, warranting compensation.

If an individual used one of the recalled CPAP cancer-causing machines, they may be able to use alternative treatments for sleep apnea or recover full compensation if they have received a related diagnosis.

Categories: Product Liability