Takata, a Japanese airbag supplier, announced on Monday that it will change the design of driver airbag inflators and that replacements by other suppliers will not use ammonium nitrate as a propellant.
Various car brands recalled millions of cars with Takata airbags last month that could burst with too much force and hurl potentially deadly metal fragments into the cars. In the US alone, Takata recalled 34 million cars.
Takata executive vice president Kevin Kennedy said that the replacements for defective airbags will not use ammonium nitrate and Takata is working with automakers “to transition to newer version of inflators” in a written testimony in advance of a US congress hearing today.
However, the company says it will not abandon the usage of ammonium nitrate, “which is safe and effective for use in air bag inflators when properly engineered and manufactured.”
But the safety and volatility of ammonium nitrate remains controversial. Many industry officials and chemists argue that ammonium nitrate becomes highly volatile when exposed to moisture.
Takata, the only major air bag supplier remaining which uses this chemical, admitted in May that inflators “may experience an alteration over time” which could cause an “over-aggressive combustion,” when exposed to “high absolute humidity.”
At least six deaths and hundreds of injuries have been linked to defective airbags since 2003.