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  1. #1
    FIGJAM lutan1's Avatar
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    Question Sodium Azide- Present or not present?

    So we all know that Sodium Azide has been widely used in airbag inflator modules, but I've heard lot's of conflicting reports- is there any trace of this product after the bag has deployed or is it entirely burned up in the chemical reaction of the inflator?
    Luke


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    Forum Member dragonfyre's Avatar
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    In the air bag class I teach I use a video from the American Coalition for Traffic Safety. In the video they say, "there is no traceable amount of sodium azide in the passenger compartment" after deployment.

    What sodium azide is left after the chemical reaction passes through the filtering system and is captured. There is some concern regarding the sodium hydroxide that is used but once that hits the moisture in the air it converts to sodium bicarbonate. Also remember that the cloud of dust is nothing more than corn starch or baby powder to keep the bag plyable while folded.

    I always start the class with a quote from Mark Twain, "The definition of courage is not the lack of fear, but the mastery of it." By understanding how the system works you will get rid of all the misconceptions regarding the systems and "master" your fears of it.
    Steve Dragon
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    FIGJAM lutan1's Avatar
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    I'm confused- you're first paragraph says,
    there is no traceable amount of sodium azide in the passenger compartment
    But then the next one says,
    What sodium azide is left after the chemical reaction passes through the filtering system and is captured
    In all my training, I've never heard of a filtering and capturing system in an SRS system.

    I'm aware of the "corn starch" powder and realize that this causes no harm, but when you do a search on Sodium Azide on various chemical databases and read the MSDS's- it's nasty stuff!!!

    I used the Chemwatch database and the report mentions that it is used in airbag inflator modules, along with other things.

    The health effects are as follows (Very shortened, but this is gives you an idea...):

    SWALLOWED- The soil/dust is doscomforting to the gastro-intestinal tract, highly toxic and may be fatal if swallowed. Azide ingestion may produce breathlessness and a rapid heartbeat within 5 minutes. Nausea, vomitting, headache, restlessness and diarrhoea may occur within 15 minutes. Other symptons include reduced blood pressure, abnormal breathing, reduced body temperature, reduced blood pH, convulsions, collapse and death.

    EYE- The material is highly discomforting to the eyes and is capable of causing pain and severe conjunctivitis. Corbeal injury may develop with permanaent impairment of vision.

    SKIN- The material is highly discomforting to the skin and it is absorbed by skin, if contact is prolonged may cause burns. Toxic effects may result from skin absorption.

    INHALED- Azide vapours and fumes are mucous membrane irritants and heavy exposure may cause bronchitis and pulmonary oedema.

    CHRONIC HEALTH EFFECTS- Principal routes of exposure are by accidental skin and eye contact and inhalation of generated dusts.

    UN No: 1687
    DGC: 6.1
    Sub Risk: None
    Packinbg Group: II
    Hazchem: 2X


    How many manufacturers have come out and stated that there are NO traces of sodium azide after deployment?

    I recently attended two different lectures, one by GMH and they said their bags contained sodium azide, but weren't sure of the answer, and the other lecture was from BMW, they claimed to have never heard of sodium azide!
    Luke

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    FIGJAM lutan1's Avatar
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    Further to my last post, on page 204/205 of Ron Moore's 2nd Edition, Vehicle Rescue and Extrication he says the following,
    Rescue personnel who arrive soon after air bag deployment may see or smell what appears to be smoke, along with a powder or dust throughout the inside of the vehicle. If the airbag has a chemical inflator design, the smoke is a by product of the combustion of sodium azide and other chemicals within the inflator module.
    He then goes on and states,
    This powder, usually cornstarch or talcum powder, works as a lubricant to ensure smooth deployment.
    Further on,
    A small amount of sodium hydroxide is sometimes mixed with the residual chemical powder of a frontal air bag. This chemical, a byproduct of the combustion process that takes place inside the inflator module, is slightly alkaline and may cause skin and eye irritation to a patient or medical responder.
    Further on, on page 205, Ron says,
    If a crash victim appears to be suffering from acute respiratory distress, rescue workers should consider the possibility of an asthmatic attack and treat the patient accordingly.
    So my question is, are the symptons bought on by possible traces of Sodium Azide, or exposure to the powder (sodium hydroxide)?
    Luke

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    Forum Member dragonfyre's Avatar
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    Sounds to me like you answered your own question.

    I guess I should have continued that since what doesn't burn off is captured by the filter, sodium azide does not get into the cabin. GM uses a filter inside the system before the air (hydrogen) is pushed into the bag to cause deployment.

    As far as any symptons go it's most likely from the powder. However, the same video states that testing with severe asmathics showed no severe effects from the dust.
    Steve Dragon
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    FIGJAM lutan1's Avatar
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    what doesn't burn off is captured by the filter
    Dragonfyre, you've mentioned this filter again. Until today (When you wrote about it) I've never heard of such a filter. It has never been mentioned in any training session that I've attended, nor is it in any manual that I can find, including Ron's latest book of goodies....
    Luke

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    I don't think Sodium Azide is a real problem at car accidents. I do not have scientific explanation but if you think how many airbags deploy every day in accidents around the world it could not be a big problem because you do not hear of big problems.

    I think its only a problem when a big amount of sodium azide is present and when it is not sealed within the airbag case (during airbag manufavutring or during transport from OEM to car manufacture).

    As far as I know today sodium-azide is replaced by other chemicals because it is to toxic (non-azide)!

    I will look in all my manuals and information sources the next days and will for further (more scientific) informations!
    Jorg Heck
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    Lutan
    Sodium-azide ignition temp. is about 350d F plus or minus. During a deployment temps will reach in excess of 1200 F, it will have all cooked off, there is really no way there could be any residual left.
    As far as lecturers go, the rocket scientists get paid to design not lecture-you may not have had the guy who truly understood all the nuts and bolts(salesman or management). Vehicle manufactures don't make their own airbags so maybe the technical questions should be directed to them.

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    FIGJAM lutan1's Avatar
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    Jducharme- according to the MSDS I have, the decomposition of the product occurs at 275 degrees Celsius.

    When decomposing on heating it produces toxic fumes of ammonia, nitrogen oxides (NOx) and explosive hydrazoic acid.


    I'm going to keep this going to try and see how much people know to be a FACT versus WHAT THEY BELEIVE or HAVE BEEN TOLD...


    As far as I know today sodium-azide is replaced by other chemicals because it is to toxic
    hhhhmmmm.....
    Luke

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    Forum Member dragonfyre's Avatar
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    Default FACT!

    Attached is a General Motors diagram of a Driver Inflator Module showing two (2) filters, Coarse and Fine, designed to capture any gases created during inflation.
    Attached Images Attached Images  
    Steve Dragon
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    Forum Member Fire304's Avatar
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    Originally posted by jducharme
    During a deployment temps will reach in excess of 1200 F, it will have all cooked off, there is really no way there could be any residual left.
    I have to respectfully take issue with this statement. The piston of a diesel engine runs about 1200F yet fuel can almost always be found in the exhaust gases. Complete combustion is rare and usually requires a lab to create it.

    Lutan, I'm with you, I don't trust anything put out by the manufacturer about this stuff. The fact is that they don't test for traces of methel ethel nasty stuff because the government does not require it. Hopefully you'll find an independant lab such as UL or CU which has tested this stuff.

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    Lightbulb

    I would say those filters are there not to capture the gasses but to trap hot propellant particles and keep them from damaging the restraint system during deployment. Then again, I could be wrong...

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    FIGJAM lutan1's Avatar
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    those filters are there not to capture the gasses but to trap hot propellant particles and keep them from damaging the restraint system
    I like the sound of that one....

    Anyone else got their thoughts/ideas/opinions to share?
    Luke

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    Forum Member Bones42's Avatar
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    INHALED- Azide vapours and fumes are mucous membrane irritants and heavy exposure may cause bronchitis and pulmonary oedema
    I'm guessing with the small amount in the charge and what may (or may not) be left over, the risk is minimal and it will be for the patient, not the rescuer, unless the rescuer is around when the bag inflates.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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    So whats the answer to how to protect the responder? Should we done a filter mask? How about pos pressure ventilation? What about the other gasses that are bad for us at extrications (oil cooking on the transfer/engine block, broken battery fumes, and all the other gasses/smoke)

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    I think we need to find someone that manufactures the sodium-azide. I will attempt to contact a chemist and also one of the producers of the sodium-azide that is actually produced for airbags use.
    Personally I don't think its a problem but lets get it straight from the horses mouth and we'll know its right. If I'm wrong I'll buy you a beer lutan1.

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    Forum Member Fire304's Avatar
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    I did a Google search for sodium azide and airbag and found this site from OSHA.
    http://www.osha-slc.gov/dts/hib/hib_...b19900830.html

    THe info was dated 1990

    They state that...
    the sodium azide is completely consumed by this reaction

    and in the Q&A section it states...

    Q6 Is there any sodium azide in the residue? Is it harmful?

    A There is no detectable amount of sodium azide residue present in the passenger compartment after an air bag deployment...


    That said, it also states that...

    Q12 If the air bag did not deploy in the crash, is it likely to deploy after the crash?

    A No, The sensor devices used to activate the system are designed to respond only to the type of violent forces present during a crash. It is unlikely that the same type of forces will be created during rescue operations.


    We know this is untrue, that our actions can and have deployed airbags after the crash where the use of HRT's compromises the electrical components of the SRS.

    The web site also states...
    DEPLOYED AIR BAGS ARE NOT DANGEROUS

    This is obviously out of date since we now have some airbags with dual inflators, one of which may not have been triggered during the accident.

    On the good news front I found this article from CNN
    http://www.cnn.com/2000/NATURE/04/04...enn/index.html
    which talks about how dangerous a chemical sodium azide is and how little is known about it. There is a growing fear that there are no disposal regulations for old airbags. The good news is that these enviromentalist say deploying the airbag leaves no sod-az behind and may be the best way to get rid of the 11 million pounds of the stuff already in airbags.

    On a personal note, my wife is a biologist who uses sod-az to "kill everything" when she needs to kill off a colony of dangerous micro organisms she is working with. Nice, hu?
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    Forum Member Fire304's Avatar
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    Suplimental note on my last post, I read an article concerned with the possabiliy of using sodium azide as a bomb material, since an uninflated airbag contains both the fuel and an electrical ignighter. Collected a few old airbags and you could come up with a pretty powerful bomb.

    Even if you do not detonate it, Sod-Az is a listed airborn rat posion, WMD in the making? A lot easier to get than VX nerve agent! 50mg will produce a coma in 5 minutes. There is about 50g in a driver's bag and 400g in a passenger bag.

    So, how secure are your junk yards?
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    Forum Member dragonfyre's Avatar
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    I can't see making a bomb out of the sodium azide. It's not an explosive, it's only designed to be a fast burning rapid heat producing chemical.

    That's why it's used in model rockets and the space shuttle. Granted the space shuttle did blow up but it wasn't from the sodium azide in the sides, it was from the main tank. Also, it would take a lot of air bags to fill the shuttle up.

    If it were a true explosive I don't think little Timmy would be able to purchase it for his Este's rocket in the back yard.
    Steve Dragon
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    Forum Member Fire304's Avatar
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    I was not aware of the rocket fuel link to sodium azide, however, anything which expands rapidly can be used to create an explosion, to some degree, if it is contained. These are also not my ideas, just stuff I read while doing a google search of sodium azide.
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