Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes breathing to stop and start. Continuous positive airway pressure machines, otherwise known as CPAPs, are one treatment option for the disorder. These devices are meant to aid in the airflow that the lungs receive while the user wears a mask. The air pressure provided by the device is somewhat greater than that in the room, and gives just enough air to keep upper airway passages open, preventing many serious issues.
Philips Respironics, a manufacturer of CPAP devices, and the FDA issued a recall for their machines in June 2021, after it was discovered that users were likely to inhale or ingest toxic gasses and particles from a part of the machine designed to limit sound and vibration. Among the possible side effects of this machine defect is cancer, and with this recall, class action and individual lawsuits against Philips have been filed.
The Issue with the Product Design
The part of the machine that is meant to reduce sound and vibration has a component made of a polyester based polyurethane foam (PE-PUR). This material will degrade over time, entering into the airflow portion of the device. Testing has shown that this material produces chemicals when it turns to a gas form.
This material will degrade at a faster rate when the device is improperly cleaned. Two methods of improper cleaning include methods like ozone exposure and UV light products. Additionally, high heat and humid environments will contribute to the breakdown of the material. People who have been exposed to the broken down particulates have been known to suffer from headaches, inflammation, respiratory issues, and carcinogenic effects. Because the recall is fairly new, long term health effects have not been thoroughly studied, but exposure to these types of gasses have been known to cause headaches, hypersensitivity, irritation, nausea, and vomiting.
In September 2021, Philips was authorized by the FDA to begin repairs on the defective devices, while replacing others with newer models. Full replacement and repairs are expected to be completed in a year.
Types of Injuries that People are Suing for
Some of the possible injuries that people have been diagnosed with include
- Severe ear, eye, nose, throat, sinus, or oral cavity injury
- This includes nodules, cysts, tumors, and respiratory failure
- New or worsening asthma
- Organ injury, including kidney failure
- Certain types of cancer
Other serious issues include
- Acute respiratory distress system (ARDS)
- Chemical poisoning
- Lung and pulmonary disease and damage
- Pleural effusion
- Reactive airway disease (RAD)
How to Know if You Qualify for a Lawsuit Against Philips
Because there is not a “signature injury” linked to Philips CPAP machines, anyone who has used one of the recalled machines and is interested in pursuing litigation should seek out an attorney with experience handling product liability and medical device injury cases. You should prepare yourself with basic information, like doctors you have seen, diagnosis you have been given, and a list of medications you are taking. Once your basic information has been provided, the attorney will determine whether further investigation into your claim is warranted.