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Honda reports 20th death from exploding Takata air bag

Honda reports 20th death from exploding Takata air bag
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) holds an example of a defective Takata airbag in 2014. (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

Honda said another person has been killed by an exploding Takata air bag inflator.

The company said the person died when a 2004 Honda Civic crashed July 10 in Baton Rouge, La. Officials from Honda and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration inspected the car Tuesday and confirmed that the inflator blew apart and caused the death.

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The person's name and age were not released. It is the 20th death worldwide caused by the inflators, which can explode with too much force and send shrapnel into the cabin.

Honda said in a statement that the car's air bag apparently was salvaged from another vehicle, a 2002 Civic.

The automaker said it is cooperating with the government as it investigates the matter.

It's perfectly legal under federal law for air bag assemblies or other parts subject to recall to be pulled out of wrecked cars and sold by junkyards to repair shops that may not even know the danger. No government agency monitors the transactions.

Unlike most other air bag makers, Takata used the chemical ammonium nitrate to create a small explosion to inflate the bags in a crash. But the chemical deteriorates over time when exposed to heat and humidity, causing it to burn too fast and blow apart a metal canister. The resulting shrapnel can kill or injure people. More than 180 people have been hurt this way in the United States alone.

The problem touched off the largest automotive recall in U.S. history, involving up to 69 million inflators and 42 million vehicles. Honda was Takata's biggest customer before the problems surfaced. In June, Takata filed for bankruptcy protection in both Japan and the United States, and rival Key Safety Systems bought most of its assets.

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