U.K. man dies after exposure to airbag chemicals

June 1, 2012 12:00 AM

Airbags are typically thought to be safety devices, but in the case of one British man, the deployment of an airbag proved to be fatal.

IOL Motoring reports Ronald Smith of South Shields, U.K., died after inhaling "noxious substances" found in the airbag. Smith was involved in a minor accident in which his airbag was deployed. While he wasn't injured in the crash, an errant shard of glass reportedly punctured the airbag.

Airbags contain sodium azide, which is known to be toxic to humans. Typically, the sodium azide is heated up to become nitrogen, which helps quickly inflate the device. However, the puncturing of the airbag exposed the raw form of the chemical - a white powder that Smith said was everywhere after the accident.

After weeks of coughing fits, Smith was admitted to the hospital with bronchial pneumonia and later died. The coroner's report indicated the death was the result of inhaling the white powder from the airbag. It's believed to be the first time anyone has died from the chemical.

Even in cases where the driver isn't physically hurt, accidents can be dangerous. Drivers should do their best to avoid accidents by ensuring their vehicle maintenance is up to par, including brake service and properly inflated tires.

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