The hot gasses that are pumped into an airbag when it inflates can cause some serious injury in certain cases, as a poor 34 year old lady in Melbourne discovered.
She sustained deep dermal second degree burns from the gases when her airbag inflated on impact. These gases that escape from the airbag as it deflates after deployment can be as hot as 500 degrees Celcius. These burns take a long time to heal and risk scarring.
The lady is not alone – Dr Vivek Kumar Sinha and Dr Kirstie MacGill from Melbourne’s Box Hill Hospital says there have been a few reports of similiar airbag burns in Australia in the recent years.
“The driver remembers the airbag being deployed before noticing white powder and smoke emanating from it. It was only later that she realised she had received a burn injury to her right hand and was puzzled as to how that had happened. It was painful, became red and swollen, and later blistered,” said Dr MacGill.
“Airbags have also been linked to abrasions, lacerations, contusions, upper limb fractures and damage to the throat, eyes and ears (the sound of an airbag deploying is very loud – can be 165 to 175 dB) though these injuries were not the result of an airbag malfunction but its intrinsic design. Certainly injuries such as burns are a small price to pay for the greater safety provided by airbags during a collision. However, with the increasing use of airbags today, this case report points towards the need for more research into possibly modifying the design of airbags with the aim of decreasing these injuries,” added Dr Sinha and Dr MacGill in an Emergency Medicine Australasia report.