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Takata admits propellant may have contributed to accidents

New Jersey motorists may have been affected by the recall involving millions of vehicles equipped with airbags supplied by the auto parts manufacturer Takata. The defective airbags have been linked to accidents that claimed six lives and left more than 100 people injured. A senior Takata executive appeared before a U.S House of Representatives subcommittee on June 9, and he admitted to lawmakers that the Japanese company’s decision to use ammonium nitrate as a primary propellant was likely a factor in the rupturing of its airbag inflator canisters.

Experts have said that the use of ammonium nitrate as a propellant could be dangerous because the chemical is vulnerable to moisture and heat. Takata’s executive vice president conceded under tough questioning that many of the accidents linked with the faulty airbags occurred in warm and humid parts of the country. Many of Takata’s competitors use guanidine nitrate as an airbag propellant because it is more stable than ammonium nitrate, and the committee was told that Takata would likely be using more guanidine nitrate in the future.

Members of the committee were also dismayed to learn that Takata still produces airbags for installation in new vehicles that use ammonium nitrate as a propellant without adding a desiccant to absorb moisture. Lawmakers were also alarmed when the Takata executive admitted that some of the replacement airbags sent to dealers performing vehicle recalls contained no desiccant.

The testimony of this executive indicates that large corporations may sometimes place profits ahead of the safety of their customers. When the products used by Americans are unsafe, their manufacturers may face product liability lawsuits. An attorney could explain the steps involved in pursuing civil remedies from the manufacturer of a defective product and could also point out that seeking to hold such companies financially responsible for their actions may protect consumers in the future.

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