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Takata Airbag Chemical A 20-Year-Long Problem

A New York Times report revealed that the chemical used in the Takata airbag deployment system has been a problem for the company for nearly two decades. The report cited a patent application for the Takata airbag that expressed concerns about the use of ammonium nitrate, the chemical used to inflate the airbag in a collision. The patent document showed that the manufacturers knew that the chemical would exhibit volatile behavior when exposed to changes in temperature, pressure and humidity.

Takata Airbag System “Might Even Blow Up”

The report quotes a June 1995 patent application for the Takata airbag system, stating that the unstable nature of the ammonium nitrate propellant “might even blow up” the airbag assembly. The application cited “crystalline phase changes” in the ammonium nitrate that would make the chemical more volatile at 32°C (90°F) . The phase change would cause an increase in volume and pressure in the gas propellant system, which could lead to a catastrophic explosion.

Humidity Problem With Takata Airbag System

A later set of Takata airbag patent documents showed that humidity was also a concern. A patent application from October 2006 showed that moisture could make its way into the propellant system, which would also cause a volatile reaction in the ammonium nitrate. The patent application stated that the Takata airbag inflation system would “rupture due to extremely high internal pressures” without a moisture-absorbing agent. Autoliv, a Swedish airbag manufacturer, stated in a 2003 patent applications that ammonium nitrate “is generally impractical” and that the chemical’s volatile nature makes it “unacceptable” for airbag inflation systems

Takata Airbag Problems Tied to 5 Deaths

The massive Takata airbag recall stems from reports of at least five deaths, four in the U.S., from exploding airbag assembly system. The reports showed that the airbag systems propelled metal and plastic shards into the drivers’ bodies at high speed. These shards would become embedded into the head, neck, and upper torso of the drivers, often leading to fatal injuries.

Takata Airbag Recall Affects Millions of Vehicles

Several major auto manufacturers have been affected by the recent Takata airbag recall. Honda Motor Corporation, the largest users of the Takata airbag system, announced that it would recall more than 8 million vehicles worldwide. Other major Japanese automakers, including Mazda, Mitsubishi, Subaru, and Toyota, also announced recalls of their vehicles with Takata airbags. American manufacturers Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors, as well as German automaker BMW, also stated that they would recall more than a million vehicles with the Takata airbag system.

Source: New York Times

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