Air bags, fitted in the majority of new automobiles, are safety devices activated when a sudden deceleration causes the ignition of a propellant cartridge containing sodium azide. The bag is inflated by nitrogen liberated during the combustion. Deployment releases various high-temperature gases, including nitrogen and carbon dioxide, and produces sodium hydroxide, a highly irritant alkaline substance. In about 7%-8% of cases, air bags cause dermatologic injuries such as traumatic lesions, irritant dermatitis, and chemical and thermal burns. Nondermatologic lesions, such as ocular damage (alkali keratitis, corneal abrasions), ear lesions, bone fractures, and contusive damage can also be caused by air bag deployment.
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