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New Air Bag Explosion Spurs Renewed Concerns About Limited Recalls

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In June 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) revealed that it was looking into another crash involving a ruptured Takata airbag. This time, the air bag that exploded was in a 2015 Volkswagen (VW) Tiguan—a newer model of car than those that have been involved in air bag explosions in the past.

This vehicle was not part of the millions of cars that have been recalled for potentially defective air bags, prompting Senators Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Ed Markey of Massachusetts to call for a recall of all Takata air bags currently on the market until the cause of these explosions can be determined.

New Accident Does Not Involve High Humidity

According to Detroit News, the Volkswagen accident occurred in Missouri, and the air bag in question was a side air bag—also something unusual, as those airbags that have previously exploded are typically driver’s side air bags.

The reported problem is that instead of deploying as they should, these air bags burst open, sending small pieces of metal and plastic into the interior of the vehicle. These pieces have caused knife-like wounds in occupants, and have been linked with vision and hearing loss, as well as excessive bleeding that can lead to death. So far, defective Takata air bags have allegedly caused about eight deaths and over 100 injuries.

Takata has indicated that aged air bag inflators, high temperatures, and high humidity are all factors in causing some air bags to explode. Based on its own company tests on the inflators, Takata initially limited its air bag recalls to only those areas affected by high humidity and high temperatures, like Florida, Puerto Rico, and Hawaii.

Critics called on Takata to expand its recalls, based on incidents that happened in other areas where the humidity was not high. Takata resisted until June of 2015, when it issued a public apology and expanded its recalls to all 50 states.

With this latest air bag explosion, however—involving an air bag in a new 2015 car in an area that did not include prolonged exposure to high humidity—Congressmen are again expressing concern that Takata has still not done enough to protect public safety.

NHTSA Demanding More Data from Takata and VW

Volkswagen (VW) has stated that it’s investigating the incident, which it said occurred after the driver hit a deer. The driver was apparently not seriously injured and did not seek medical attention. So far, VW vehicles have not been included in Takata air bag recalls. Takata doesn’t believe this accident is related to the other Takata air bag explosions.

The NHTSA is demanding more data, and has asked both VW and Takata to produce documents showing whether any other VW vehicles are connected to Takata air bag explosions. It is also asking the automaker to reveal which vehicles include air bag inflators containing ammonium nitrate—a reportedly unstable fuel that Takata has used as a propellant. There has been some evidence suggesting that the fuel may be a factor in air bag explosions.

Amidst concerns that even replacement air bags may contain ammonium nitrate, and that it may potentially cause explosions, Takata has announced a testing plan to further investigate the propellant’s safety.

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  1. Mardy Shepherd says:
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    All Takata airbags on the road should be disengaged! You are safer with NO airbag than with a Takata airbag! A Takata airbag is tantamount to riding around with a loaded gun pointed at your head!