Takata and the safety agency said they knew of no ruptures related to the hazard that prompted the latest recall.
Exposure to moisture and temperature fluctuations can degrade the propellant, which contains ammonium nitrate, a volatile compound Takata’s inflaters use to deploy airbags. The company used a variety of chemical agents to keep the propellant dry in its devices over the years, with some combinations showing a greater propensity to fail than others, federal regulators said.
The latest recall is the first involving the inflaters that use calcium sulfate as a drying agent. The inflater can combust in an “over-aggressive” manner, potentially rupturing and causing harm, according to a filing Takata submitted to the highway safety administration.
Takata’s latest admission brought fresh criticism of the company in Washington.
“This recall now raises serious questions about the threat posed by all of Takata’s ammonium-nitrate-based airbags,” Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida, said in a statement. “If even more are found to be defective, it will take us from the biggest recall ever to something that could become mind-boggling.”
He called on regulators to quickly determine “whether all remaining Takata airbag inflaters are safe.”
In a statement, Takata said it had decided to recall inflaters that use calcium sulfate “out of an abundance of caution.” The devices are Takata’s earliest generation of ammonium-nitrate inflaters using calcium sulfate as a drying agent. The company is now testing later generations of those devices.
Takata pleaded guilty to criminal charges in January and agreed to pay a $1 billion fine related to its faulty airbag inflater systems. After filing for bankruptcy protection last month, it is selling assets.
The company has said that it expects to fund the airbag repairs through the asset sale and that it has secured financing to ensure it can continue operations, including dealing with the defective inflaters, while it restructures.