Recalled CPAP Machines Linked to Cancer

In June of last year, millions of Philips CPAP and BiPAP sleeping machines were recalled after the company acknowledged that sound abatement foam in the devices was breaking down and causing users to inhale toxic chemicals.

The sweeping recall immediately prompted a wave of CPAP lawsuits. The early plaintiffs in these cases claimed that the recalled devices caused a variety of different health problems including asthma, throat tumors, and general respiratory irritation.

CPAP and Liver Cancer, Kidney Cancer, and Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

Initially, it was not entirely clear exactly what health conditions might be definitively linked to the inhalation of foam particles from the recalled CPAP machines. As more evidence emerges, our lawyers suspect there will be hundreds if not thousands of CPAP cancer lawsuits. The strongest causation evidence linking the Philips CPAP devices to specific types of cancer: (a) kidney and liver cancer, (b) lung cancer, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Details of the Philips CPAP Recall

cpap-philips@large-300x200On June 14, 2021, the healthcare device company Philips announced an emergency safety recall of millions of CPAP and BiPAP devices used primarily for sleep apnea. It was one of the largest and most significant product recalls in recent history, impacting an estimated 5 million people in the U.S.

Philips issued the recall because of a serious problem with the PE-PUR polyurethane sound abatement foam used in the machines.  The PE-PUR foam in many machines was deteriorating over time and causing users to inhale tiny foam particles every night while they slept. The was a major health hazard because the PE-PUR foam contained several chemical components that are well-known human carcinogens.

Philips Knew About the Problem With its CPAP Devices But Did Nothing

In August last year, the FDA concluded an investigation into the CPAP recall which revealed that Philips had known about the problem with the PE-PUR foam for nearly 10 years but did nothing about it. Internal company documents revealed that at least as early as January 2011, Philips was aware that the PE-PUR foam in its machines had a tendency to degrade and pose a health risk for users.

The FDA investigation also established that during a 7-year period from April 2016 to January 2021, Philips received at least 14 separate reports of PE-PUR foam degradation problems with its CPAP devices.

In response to this information concerning the safety of its CPAP and BiPAP machines, Philips did absolutely nothing. It did not perform any further investigation; it did not conduct a health hazard evaluation or risk analysis; it did not conduct a design review of the issue.

Do the Recalled Philips CPAP Machines Cause Cancer?

When Philips first announced the CPAP recall in June, it took the scientific and medical community by surprise. As a result, there was nothing in the way of research or clinical studies establishing a specific causal relationship between prolonged use of the recalled CPAP devices and specific types of cancer or other medical conditions.

Philips performed its own internal lab testing and research prior to issuing the recall and essentially admitted that inhaling the foam particles could lead to cancer. In its June 14, 2021, recall notice, Philips stated that inhalation of the PE-PUR foam in the recalled CPAP devices could cause “possible toxic and carcinogenic effects.”

Philips also issued a brief report titled “Clinical Information for Physicians.” In this report, Philips disclosed that “[l]ab analysis of the degraded foam reveals the presence of potentially harmful chemicals.” The potentially harmful chemicals in the CPAP foam included 4 chemicals that are classified by the CDC as potential or known human carcinogens:

  • Toluene diamine: classified by the CDC as a “potential occupational carcinogen” and animal testing has linked to liver cancer.
  • Toluene diisocyanate: classified by the CDC as a “potential occupational carcinogen” and animal testing has linked to liver pancreatic, liver, and skin cancer.
  • Phenol: a possible carcinogen that is known to cause damage to the kidneys and liver.

What Types of Cancer May be Linked to Toxic Foam in Recalled CPAP Machines?

Research studies are currently underway to give us a more accurate picture of exactly what types of cancer are likely linked to the inhalation of degraded PE-PUR foam particles from recalled Philips CPAP or BiPAP machines. According to a public safety communication issued by the FDA, chronic exposure to polyurethane foam particles of the type associated with the CPAP machines can increase the risk of organ cancers, specifically liver cancer and kidney cancer.

Although we don’t yet have any studies specifically quantifying the risk of specific cancer types to users of the recalled CPAP devices, we do have existing laboratory testing and research on the specific carcinogenic chemical compounds contained in the PE-PUR foam. Based on this evidence and the cancers identified in many of the CPAP recall lawsuits that have been filed, we can tentatively identify a number of specific types of cancer that appear to be linked to the recalled CPAP machines.

The types of cancer with the strongest apparent link to chemicals in the PE-PUR foam are kidney cancer and liver cancer. Both of these cancers have been shown to occur in animal lab testing on 2 of the carcinogenic components contained in the toxic CPAP machine foam. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and lung cancer also appear to be closely connected to chemicals in the PE-PUR foam known as isocyanates.

A number of other types of cancer could also be linked to the inhalation of foam particles in the Philips CPAP machines.

Recalled CPAP Users Diagnosed With Cancer May Be Entitled to Compensation

Anyone who used one of the recalled Philips CPAP or BiPAP devices on a regular basis for at least 12 months and was subsequently diagnosed with ANY type of cancer could potentially be entitled to financial compensation. Thousands of CPAP lawsuits have already been filed and many, many more are expected moving forward.

The types of cancer most frequently alleged by CPAP plaintiffs in the case filed so far are kidney, liver, and lung cancer. However, as more CPAP recall cases get filed, we expect to see many different cancer types being alleged. It is possible that the research currently underway may or may not end up supporting a causal link between the recalled CPAP devices and certain cancer types, but right now everything is still on the table.

How Much Will CPAP Cancer Lawsuits Be Worth??

At this early stage of the Philips CPAP litigation, we can’t say for certain how much these claims might be worth in settlement or at trial. However, we can make a reasonable estimate regarding the potential settlement value of CPAP cancer lawsuits based on a comparative analysis of verdicts and settlements awarded in malpractice cases involving cancer.

Failure to diagnose cancer is a common type of medical malpractice claim. The median trial verdict payout in misdiagnosis cases involving cancer is $1.75 million (the average is slightly higher). If a CPAP cancer case were to go to trial it would probably have a slightly higher potential value than a cancer misdiagnosis claim because of the nature of the alleged harm.

In a failure to diagnose cancer case, the plaintiff is not claiming that the defendant gave them cancer. Rather, they are alleging that the defendant’s negligence caused a delay in treatment of cancer that they already had. By contrast, plaintiffs in the CPAP cancer lawsuits are alleging claiming that their CPAP machine caused them to develop cancer. Causing cancer is obviously a more significant harm than a delay in cancer treatment.

While the trial value of CPAP cancer lawsuits could be in the $2-3 million range, the likely settlement value of the CPAP lawsuits in the MDL will be significantly lower. Based on prior global settlements in similar mass torts (such as Roundup) we think CPAP cancer claims will have a settlement value of around $150,000-$200,000. This is slightly higher than the $150,000 average settlement for top-tier Roundup cases which involved non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Do recalled Philips CPAP machines cause cancer?

Chemicals in the foam used in the recalled Philips CPAP devices included several known carcinogens and Philips admitted in its recall notice that inhalation of these chemicals by CPAP users could have “carcinogenic effects.”

Hiring a CPAP Cancer Lawyer

There is a statute of limitations for every CPAP cancer lawsuit.  Call CPAP lawyer today to at least know what your rights and options.  If you want to call us, our attorneys are taking these calls 24/7 at 800-553-8082. You can also reach out to us online for a free consultation.


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