When the airbag has gone off, you often see a lot of smoke and stuff and there is a load of dust and powder all over the car

What is this powder and smoke normally (obviously all air bags are different)?

Is this powder normally dangerous/harmful to humans?

Are there any safety precautions I should take if I work with detonated airbags?

  • 1
    I like this question :-) Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 23:27
  • 4
    Not as dangerous as smashing your face into the steering wheel :) Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 8:18
  • What about the Sodium Azide (NaN3) that is used to detonate the airbag initially? I have always wondered about this because the combustion of such a chemical would yield Sodium (NA) metal and Nitrogen gas. Sodium in its natural state is also highly volatile with water. Not to mention that the original substance the Azide is very acutely toxic.
    – Lektronikz
    Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 20:16

1 Answer 1


According to a couple of sources I read, the substance in the air bags is either cornstarch or talcum powder.

How Stuff Works says:

The powdery substance released from the airbag, by the way, is regular cornstarch or talcum powder, which is used by the airbag manufacturers to keep the bags pliable and lubricated while they're in storage.

NOTE: The highlight is theirs.

There shouldn't be any danger from either one of these substances.

  • 1
    I didn't google it because I wanted the surprise of the answer :-) I'm shocked. I was convinced it would be some horrible compound. Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 0:02
  • @DucatiKiller - The only thing horrible coming out of airbags are metal shards if those air bags just happen to be made by Takata ... I have no clue who would have designed an airbag that way. Flippin' idiots. Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 0:09
  • yeah, unbelievable cover up with that as well. Gross.... Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 0:10
  • 1
    There shouldn't be any danger from either one of these substances. -- Unless you happen to have asthma. On rare occasions I've seen it trigger asthma attacks. But mainly, it triggers well-meaning bystanders into yanking injured people out of cars because they think it's smoke and the car is on fire. Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 0:42
  • @user1573 - Correct on both accounts. Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 1:07

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .