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Fire Risk Leads Praxair To Recall Grab 'n Go Oxygen Tanks

When there's a cylinder of medical oxygen in the room, the last thing you want it to do is burst into flames.

So the Food and Drug Administration says Praxair has recalled its Grab 'n Go Vantage portable oxygen units. The product combines an aluminum cylinder with a regulator that releases the oxygen at the right pressure for medical use.

It's a handy combination, but only when the Grab 'n Go is working right.

Turns out that if these cylinders get kicked around or knocked over they can sometimes catch fire.

The flames can cause the cylinders to break open, according to the FDA. People nearby could get burned. Patients would also be at risk of not getting enough oxygen.

Previously, Praxair said its investigation found that Grab 'n Go units with a particular type of o-ring between the regulator valve and the cylinder "may be more prone to this type of incident."

When the cylinders are returned for servicing or refilling, Praxair is replacing the old o-rings with Teflon models. Praxair has told customers to send the tanks back for the fix and to be careful in handling them.

As of late last month, about half of the units in the U.S. had been retrofitted. The ones that have been fixed carry a decal reading "T" for Teflon.

This is a Class I recall, which is the most serious kind in the FDA's system. That status is reserved for cases where use of the product could cause serious health problems, including death.

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Scott Hensley edits stories about health, biomedical research and pharmaceuticals for NPR's Science desk. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he has led the desk's reporting on the development of vaccines against the coronavirus.