There is little doubt of the airbags success at saving countless lives since their introduction, there are however some disadvantages with their use.
Almost half of those who find themselves involved in an accident where an airbag deploys suffer some kind of injury, thankfully however these are generally quite minor and are usually nothing more than cuts and bruises. There have been some cases where airbags have caused injury and even death to some people. By necessity the deployment of the airbag must be explosively fast and so it is powerfully inflated. This power of inflation has sadly injured and killed some people by breaking their necks.
There have also been a few cases of the so called 'Airbag Syndrome' which is the illness suffered by exposure to the sodium azide present within the airbag and which is released after deployment. The amount of harmful chemicals released in a deployment is extremely tiny and so the danger of exposure is also extremely small. For more information on 'Airbag Syndrome' click here and see the links page.
It should be remembered however that airbags have saved many thousands more people than they have injured.
A much larger problem is what to do with the old airbags in old cars the numbers of which are spiraling out of control (see pictures above.) The sodium azide is dangerous firstly because it is an explosive substance and also because it is extremely toxic. A controlled way to dispose of it is therefore necessary. A possible method is controlled incineration but a better way is to dispose of it using super-critical water oxidation (for details of this see links) this reduces the propellants to harmless gases such as nitrogen and carbon dioxide.