Q: I use a CPAP machine to manage my sleep apnea that I have to clean regularly. How well does ultraviolet light or ozone gas clean a machine?
A: If you’ve seen ads for devices that use ultraviolet light or ozone gas to disinfect your CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine and its accessories, you may be tempted to buy one. Before you do, consider the warning from the FDA that these devices have not been authorized for this purpose and may not be effective or safe to use.
According to the FDA, being exposed to excessive ozone gas—which these sanitizers may emit—can worsen any respiratory problems you have and raise your risk of infection. Between 2017 and 2019, 11 consumers who used ozone gas-based products submitted reports to the FDA of coughing, asthma attacks, headaches, and nasal irritation, among other side effects.
Products that feature ultraviolet light can cause eye injuries, burns, and even skin cancer when used over time, although to date no complaints have been registered with the FDA about these devices.
Until the manufacturers of these types of CPAP cleaners respond to the FDA’s request to offer proof that they’re safe and effective, the best method for sanitizing your CPAP machine is the one recommended in your instruction manual. Generally, a cleansing of your mask, tubing, and humidifier reservoir in a basin of warm water and gentle soap or detergent, followed by a rinse and air dry, is sufficient.
This article appeared in the June 2020 issue of UC Berkeley Health After 50.