I recently became aware that there has been a major recall of DreamStation CPAP machines and ventilator devices manufactured by Philips (www.usaphilips.com). There are two issues with the type of foam used for noise abatement in the machines, and Philips announced the recall in mid-June of this year. The foam may degrade over time because of heat and humidity, releasing particles which can get into the air pathway and tubing and be inhaled by the user. The other issue is that the degrading foam can give off harmful chemicals in the form of gases which can also be inhaled into the respiratory system. This breaking down of the foam can also be made worse by the use of ozone sanitizing machines widely used to clean and disinfect the CPAP and accessories.

The potential risks of exposure to these foam particles include skin, eye and respiratory tract irritation, headache, asthma, adverse effects on other organs including kidneys and the liver, as well as toxic carcinogenic effects. Philips has already had complaints regarding the presence of tiny black particles within the humidifier, tubing and mask. They have received reports from people suffering from headaches, cough, upper airway irritation, chest pressure and sinus infections. A whole host of problems can be experienced just by using your machine as directed by your doctor to correct sleep apnea issues! Who knew?

I’ve had to visit an ear, nose and throat specialist because of chronic sinus infections since I started using the CPAP machine. The doctor told me she gets multiple complaints like mine from other sleep apnea patients, and she recommended better cleaning methods than the Dawn dishwashing detergent I was instructed to use weekly when I got my machine. She recommended using a solution of Clorox and hot water for DAILY cleaning. I’ve since read that a solution of white vinegar and water is better than Clorox, and that the part that goes over your nose should only be cleaned with Dawn. There’s conflicting advice wherever you look!

These are serious issues, and what surprises me is that I haven’t seen anything about this on the evening news or in newspapers. The other thing that concerns me is that I’m getting different advice from different sources concerning what to do about it. To start with, as of this writing, the provider of my equipment has not sent out any official notice of the recall, which I would have thought should have been a priority. My brother made me aware of the issue, and I followed up by directly asking the provider about it when I was in the store for a different problem concerning the headgear. Only after I asked about it did she address the issue.

The provider gave me a number to call to see if my machine is affected by the recall. The number is 877-907-7508, and you’ll need the serial number found on the bottom of your machine when you call. I found out that mine is one of the ones being recalled. That phone call also registers your machine so that eventually it can be repaired or replaced. Philips is the largest distributor of CPAP machines and ventilators in the world, and my provider told me that it could take six months or longer for the massive recall to be completed. She also said to keep using the machine, which contradicts the advice on the Philips website which says to quit using the machine until you can consult with your prescribing doctor concerning the benefits versus possible risks.

The provider also said to turn the heat and humidity settings to zero and quit putting water in the humidifier chamber. It is also recommended that you stop using any ozone type cleaning machines immediately. In addition to worsening the degradation of the foam in the machine, there are higher than acceptable levels of ozone left in the tubing even after the required wait time after cleaning. Breathing ozone can damage the lungs, and even low amounts can cause chest pain, coughing, shortness of breath and throat irritation.

So, I’ve still been using my machine, minus the water and heat, but it really dries my mouth and eyes out! I wake up with my tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth, sometimes even choking until I can get a drink of water. I can only tolerate it for about four hours before I toss the mask on the floor! With all the conflicting advice, though, I don’t know if I’m doing the right thing or not. I’ll see a cardiologist at Cleveland Clinic early in September and I’ll discuss the issue with him.

I’ve read that in the short term, skipping your CPAP machine therapy is probably not going to result in anything drastic happening. Over the long term, however, repeated deprivation of oxygen when you temporarily stop breathing can result in memory problems, high blood pressure, diabetes and heart issues. It’s also associated with depression, daytime sleepiness possibly leading to more frequent accidents as well as the potential eventual development of Alzheimer’s disease.

So, fellow CPAP machine users, it seems that we find ourselves between a rock and a hard place until this recall is completed and we either have new machines or the foam currently being used is replaced with a different type of noise abatement material. The worst part is that it could take months for Philips to finish this massive recall. You might want to spread the word to other CPAP users that you know.

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Marilyn Secco is a retired teacher and author of the book “Front Porch Tales.” She has 2 children and 5 grandchildren and lives in Kersey with a temperamental cat named Tidder. Contact her at mbsecco@windstream.net

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