Chemical Compound Identified as Source of Takata Airbag Explosions Remains in Use

The chemical compound ammonium nitrate, the propellant used to create gas that inflates the airbag, is widely believed to be the source of the shrapnel-emitting explosions that have resulted in at least 5 deaths and dozens of injuries. According to an investigation by The New York Times, Takata Corp., the manufacturer behind the global airbag safety crisis, has been aware of risks associated with the propellant in its airbags for nearly two decades.

Research into Takata’s airbag patents reveals concerns dating back to 1995 that the chemical was “vulnerable” to temperature and moisture, which under pressure “might even blow up.” Patents filed as late as December 2013 continued to express “lingering concerns” over these same issues. Takata officials have attributed the exploding airbags to manufacturing flaws in the propellant’s chemical reaction in high-humidity areas, claiming to have fixed this problem in replacement airbags; yet, ammonium nitrate continues to be present in even these new parts despite long- lasting concerns.

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