Furious users of a faulty device are considering launching legal action against a global electronics giant.
A top tier law firm has been flooded with dozens of inquiries in relation to an urgent recall of popular breathing machines.
The avalanche of approaches could trigger a class action against a global electronics giant.
Philips in June recalled 14 sleep therapy machines designed to help people with breathing disorders.
Users would wear an oxygen mask connected to a device that pushed out steady air pressure through a tube.
The continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), bi-level positive airway pressure devices and mechanical ventilators were all manufactured before April 26 this year.
But the electronics company found the foam used to dampen the machines’ sound could release small particles that irritated airways as people slept.
“The foam may degrade into particles which may enter the device’s air pathway and be ingested or inhaled by the user, and the foam may off-gas certain chemicals,” Philips said.
Carbone Lawyers managing partner Tony Carbone said the Victorian personal injury law firm has received more than 100 inquires from concerned users in just the past two days.
He is investigating a class action against Philips, claiming users of the affected devices had been “left in the dark”.
“People just want answers – what are the problems the machines can cause and what can they do about it,” he told NCA NewsWire.
“There is going to be some serious stress and psychological issues coming out of this.
“Touch wood it’s not another asbestos or engineered stones scenario, that’s my concern because you can’t downplay shortness of breath, headaches, dizziness and lung issues – you don’t know what the effects will be long-term.”
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) said a Philips investigation identified the majority of particles were too small to penetrate deep lung tissue, but were likely to remain in the patient’s upper airway.
It warned users could suffer symptoms such as headaches and dizziness, irritation in the eyes, nose, respiratory tract, and skin, asthma, hypersensitivity, nausea and possible carcinogenic effects.
TGA said the complaint rate associated with those issues was 0.03 per cent last year.
“To date, there is no definitive evidence of long-term harm to patients and there have been no reports of death,” the regulator said.
But Mr Carbone said asbestos was a disease that manifested itself over a long period of time.
“You can understand our clients being concerned and stressed,” he said.
Melbourne resident Sam – who did not wish to disclose his surname – was recommended the machine after he conducted an overnight sleep study which found he woke up more than 80 times.
The 51-year-old was diagnosed with severe sleep apnoea in 2018 and purchased two machines – one for regular use at his home and another which he took away with him in his caravan on holidays.
But he stopped using them two weeks ago after Philips notified him of the recall.
The Cheltenham man said he immediately pulled apart the ventilator when he noticed “black soot” on the inside of the machine he regularly used.
“If you compare the device to the one I hardly use it’s clear as day,” he said.
“When I saw that I just freaked and I’m thinking a million miles an hour that’s why my throat has been so itchy, that’s why I’ve been so sensitive.
“I feel like I’m smoking again – and I gave up smoking 21 years ago – that’s how bad I feeling. All these anomalies that have been happening in my life I thought were just life changes, but they’re not.”
Another client, who only wanted to be known as George, said he was also experiencing breathing problems, including shortness of breath, headaches and dizziness.
Although unproven, he believed the use of the machine and the symptoms he was experiencing had contributed to a heart attack he suffered in January this year.
In a statement, Philips said investigations into potential health risks were ongoing.
“As a result of extensive ongoing analysis and based on the latest and most accurate information available the company made a global announcement on June 14th 2021 about its decision to voluntarily issue a global recall notification for these specific affected devices,” a spokesman said.
“We regret the inconveniences this issue has caused, and we will work tirelessly to support those who count on us.
“We cannot stress enough that Philips is treating this matter with the highest level of seriousness and is dedicating significant time and resources to address this issue.”
Philips said its priority was to replace the foam in all affected devices by repairing or replacing them.
“Due to the volume of affected devices globally, we regret it may take some time to repair or replace individual devices. Philips will confirm time frames of the corrective action as soon as possible,” it said.
Users should register their device through Philips to organise repairs or a replacement.
“People who have used affected Philips devices are encouraged to seek legal advice regardless of whether they can get a replacement or refund from Philips – this is due to the possibility that they may have been exposed to a substance with the potential to cause serious health risks,” Mr Carbone said.