What causes Takata airbags to explode?

A Combination of factors are causing Takata airbag inflators to be at risk of exploding, which puts drivers and their passengers at serious risk of injury or death. Takata's airbag inflators are made of metal and they use ammonium nitrate propellant to release the airbags upon impact. Experts have discovered that this process is being adversely affected by the ability of the chemicals to remain stable in humid climates.

The problem is that “time, environmental moisture and fluctuating high temperatures are causing the propellant in the cars to burn too quickly,” according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This results in the explosion of the inflators and pieces of metal going through the bags and inside the vehicle injuring, and sometimes killing drivers and passengers.

When an explosion occurs, the pieces of metal act as shrapnel traveling at high speeds toward the exposed face, torso, and upper extremities of people inside of a vehicle. According to the NHTSA, “this is the largest and most complex safety recall in U.S. history. Under the Coordinated Remedy Program, NHTSA and manufacturers have committed to seek a 100 percent recall completion rate (NHTSA, 2016).