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File photo used for representational purpose.
File photo used for representational purpose.

Sharpnel from exploding air bag inflator kills man in unfortunate car crash

  • The glaring spotlight is back on Takata airbags which have made news for the wrong reasons in the past as well.
  • Takata used volatile ammonium nitrate to create a small explosion to inflate air bags in a crash. This chemical may be more volatile with time.

US investigators have determined that shrapnel from an exploding Takata air bag killed a BMW driver during a crash in Arizona.

The September death of the unidentified male is the 18th in the US since 2009 and 27th worldwide caused by the faulty inflators.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wouldn't release further details on the death, citing privacy concerns. But the agency said the incident underscores the importance of getting recall repairs done. A message was left Thursday seeking comment from BMW.

Takata used volatile ammonium nitrate to create a small explosion to inflate air bags in a crash. But the chemical can become more volatile over time when exposed to moisture in the air. The explosion can blow apart a metal canister and hurl shrapnel into the passenger compartment.

The problem caused the largest series of auto recalls in US history, with at least 63 million inflators recalled. The US government says that as of September, more than 11.1 million had not been fixed. About 100 million inflators have been recalled worldwide.

(Related: Takata air bag fiasco forces Honda to recall 2.7 million vehicles)

Most of the deaths have been in the US, but they also have occurred in Australia and Malaysia.

Drivers can check to see if their vehicles have been recalled by going to recalls section of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website and keying in their 17-digit vehicle identification number.

The recalls drove Japan's Takata into bankruptcy and brought criminal charges against the company. Eventually it was purchased by a Chinese-owned auto parts supplier.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

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