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Recycled Airbags Pose Potential Danger To Unsuspecting Drivers

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) -- Tens of millions of Takata airbags have been recalled in the United States, but many are still in circulation, potentially putting unsuspecting drivers in danger. The airbags are easily found for sale online on sites like Ebay and Craigslist, and in used cars having been installed as replacement parts.

Attorney Jason Turchin represents airbag injury victims and has bought some online himself.

"The problem with South Florida and a lot of places in general is that there's a huge market for after-market parts and for used parts," said Turchin, adding, "It's so scary that somebody can get one of those airbags and not know it until after a crash and by then it's going to be too late."

A South Florida Craigslist search for airbags turns up many corresponding to cars on the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration's Takata airbag recall list, including many Honda airbags. Turchin says airbags in 2001 to 2004 Hondas have a higher propensity for rupturing.

CBS4 set out to buy some of these potentially dangerous airbags to demonstrate how easily they can be had, and to see how much sellers know about the airbags they're listing for sale. CBS4 News met the first seller at what he said was his used car and parts business, a small office space in Broward County. The seller said it was up to the buyer to research the car or part being purchased. Regarding the potential danger of recalled airbags, he offered his advice: don't crash.

The other seller had the meeting at her Miami Gardens home. She had no information about the car it came from, and claims she didn't know about the recall. She said her son purchased it from a junk yard for a car he was fixing up, and then decided to sell before making the repairs. She was glad he didn't use it after we informed her about the potential danger.

"I'll throw it away. I don't care then. No, no, no, no. We just thought we have it there, it's a part, para venderlo (to sell)," she said, ultimately offering to give it to CBS4 for free.

CBS4 paid for both, but what exactly did we buy? Just because a car is on the recall list doesn't mean it has a defective airbag or defective airbag inflator.

"What Takata is recognizing is that there's a high potential for these all to be bad, and they weren't able to identify exactly what the problem was," said Turchin. "So to err on the side of caution, they've recalled a greater number than may be affected, but the problem is that you don't know if it's actually affected until after a crash."

Turchin says sellers 'might be' liable if they knowingly sell a recalled product. Honda has an airbag buy-back program, and claims to have purchased more than 60-thousand from salvage yards.

You would probably know if you're buying a used part, but what if somebody else bought a used part from a recalled vehicle and installed it into a used car you're buying?

Karina Dorado from Las Vegas was hospitalized for weeks after crashing her used car. The airbag deployed, sending shards of metal into her throat. Her lawyer claims Dorado didn't know the car had been in a previous crash.

"They took the airbag, a recalled airbag, out of one car, a Honda, and put it into this car and resold it," explained attorney Billie-Marie Morrison.

Michael Brooks with the Center for Auto Safety is concerned that replacement parts from salvage yards can't be individually tracked.

"There should be a database of some sort that tracks each air bag by the serial number or any recalled part," said Brooks.

Meantime, it's 'buyer beware'.

"The ones that are showing up on the recall list can slip through the cracks and end up in your vehicle, and if you're in a place that's got high heat and humidity, like Miami, then you've got a potential for disaster," explained Chris Basso with Carfax.

Basso recommends checking Carfax to find out if a car's airbags have been replaced, getting any replacement airbag inspected by a professional, and insisting on original replacement parts if a replacement is necessary.

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