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U.S. Regulators Monitor Takata Air Bag Inflators After Recent Explosion

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Bijay Laxmi
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U.S. Regulators Monitor Takata Air Bag Inflators After Recent Explosion

The U.S. auto safety regulators are closely monitoring a batch of Takata air bag inflators that have not yet been recalled. This follows an event where one such inflator exploded in a BMW in Chicago, causing serious injuries to the driver. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), responsible for this surveillance, has been investigating around 30 million inflators since 2021. The focus lies in determining whether these inflators share problematic traits with the 67 million Takata inflators that have been recalled since 2001 due to a risk of explosion and ejection of metal shrapnel.

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The Danger of Ammonium Nitrate

Takata's inflators use ammonium nitrate as a propellant. This compound holds a dangerous potential: it can deteriorate and become volatile under high temperatures and humidity. Worldwide, at least 30 deaths and about 400 injuries have been linked to these defective inflators. This has led to the largest auto recall in U.S. history.

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The Role of Desiccant

Some inflators contain a desiccant, a substance employed to induce or sustain a state of dryness within its vicinity. This is meant to stabilize the ammonium nitrate and reduce its volatility. However, recent recalls suggest that manufacturing defects may also pose risks. This is seen in BMW's recent recall of 486 SUVs, GM's recall of nearly 900 vehicles, and Volkswagen's recall of about 370,000 cars. These events raise questions about the safety of desiccated inflators.

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Extensive Investigation

NHTSA's investigation includes inflators in over 200 models from 20 automakers. The BMW recall, specifically due to a welding defect, is separate from issues related to propellant aging. However, the recall's necessity underscores the potential danger of these inflators. Automakers are required to replace the airbags at no cost, with BMW owners notified by letter starting January 16.

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