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The Ammonium Nitrate That Nearly Destroyed Beirut Was The Same Compound Used In Takata’s Airbags

Ammonium nitrate is used as fertiliser and in explosives.


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The Ammonium Nitrate That Nearly Destroyed Beirut Was The Same Compound Used In Takata’s Airbags

Today’s social media and Whatsapp groups are filled with one major story — the explosion in Beirut, Lebanon. According to Lebanon’s Prime Minister, a six-year stockpile of ammonium nitrate in a warehouse caused the explosion that nearly destroyed the seaside city. Closer to your face, literally, the same chemical compound was used by an automotive company to deploy airbags.

Takata, if you recall, was in the dead centre of a scandal that involved their airbags seemingly exploding without provocation, which unfortunately killed people around the world. The Japanese automotive parts company was known to use ammonium nitrate with another chemical compound to deploy their airbags. 

However, this chemical compound is as stable as this writer standing on a medicine ball. It only takes high heat, humidity and age to ignite the chemical compound. The resulting explosion can cause shrapnel from the airbag’s components to propel to the occupants like a bullet, which can kill. Takata’s reason for using this unstable chemical came down to its cheaper cost. 

Most cars made from 2002 to 2015 are fitted with Takata airbags. Carmakers have been sounding the alarm bell, recalling affected vehicles so faulty airbags can be replaced. Despite best efforts, there remains a sizeable number of cars running on the road with these defective airbags. So if you haven’t changed yours yet, perhaps it is best to get it done, sooner rather than later.


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