WASHINGTON — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced an interim final rule to facilitate the urgent removal of defective Takata airbag inflators from vehicles and prevent defective Takata airbag inflators in scrap vehicles from being reused. The rule also advances the safe management of airbag wastes during accumulation, collection, storage and disposal. It is estimated to result in a net cost savings of 1.7 to 13 million dollars annually.
“Today’s action will help auto dealers and scrap recyclers across the country protect public health and properly dispose of these defective airbags inflators,” said EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “By streamlining these requirements, we can help get these dangerous airbags out of vehicles quickly and safely while reducing the regulatory burden on small businesses.”
The Takata airbag recall involves 19 vehicle manufacturers and approximately 65 to 70 million airbag inflators scheduled to be recalled by December 2019. The interim final rule will help expedite removal of defective Takata airbags from vehicles by automotive dealerships, salvage yards, and other locations by exempting their collection from some Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) hazardous waste requirements as long as certain conditions are met and they are ultimately disposed of at a RCRA designated facility.
The rule will provide clear direction to auto dealers, scrap recyclers, and small businesses on proper disposal of these airbags while being protective of both human health and the environment.
In 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a Coordinated Remedy Order for the recall of defective Takata airbag inflators, finding that these defective inflators had the capacity to rupture when deployed, presenting an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death. The risk with the airbag inflators increases with time and exposure to heat and humidity.
In 2018, Takata underwent a restructuring due to bankruptcy and the U.S. Department of Transportation amended its Preservation Order regarding returned inflators. Under the amended order, vehicle manufacturers no longer have to send recalled inflators to Takata warehouses for long-term storage, but may now send them directly for disposal. Given the large magnitude of this recall and the possibility of additional Takata airbag recalls, with this critical interim final rule, EPA is further facilitating airbag management away from storage and to final disposal.
EPA has determined that the public health risk posed by defective Takata airbags in vehicles provides good cause for EPA to promulgate this as an interim final rule which is effective immediately upon publication in the Federal Register. However, while the Takata recall is the reason for the rule, the airbag waste exemption also applies to non-Takata airbag waste. Applying the same protective requirements to all airbag waste avoids confusion, increases efficiency, and helps prevent non-Takata airbag waste from being diverted into the municipal waste stream. EPA will accept comments on the final rule for 60 days after its publication in the Federal Register. EPA will consider these comments in determining whether any additional revisions to the regulation of airbag waste are necessary in the future.
For more information on the interim final rule, including how to comment on it, visit https://www.epa.gov/hw/interim-final-rule-safe-management-recalled-airbags.
As of August 2018, 15 people in the United States have died from injuries inflicted by defective Takata airbag inflators and hundreds more have been seriously injured. In these incidents, the Takata airbag inflator detonated in an explosion that tore apart its steel inflator housing and sprayed high velocity metal shards at the victims instead of properly inflating to cushion the victim and prevent injury.
For more information on the Takata recall, visit: https://www.nhtsa.gov/equipment/takata-recall-spotlight.