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U.S.: 8 deaths, 98 injuries from exploding air bags

WASHINGTON -U.S. safety regulators say eight people have died and 98 people have been injured by exploding air bag inflators made by Takata Corp.

Those injured have suffered cuts to the neck, loss of eyesight and hearing and broken teeth, according to representatives of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, who gave the updated totals Thursday at a public meeting on the problem.

The agency says it knows of 89 driver's side and 32 passenger inflator ruptures. Nearly one in 10 ruptures of driver side air bags causes a death.

About 23.4 million Takata driver and passenger air bag inflators have been recalled on 19.2 million U.S. vehicles sold by 12 auto and truck makers. As of Oct. 9, only 22.5 percent of the recalled inflators had been replaced nationwide. It was 4.4 percent on Sept. 1.

Thursday's meeting in Washington is a step toward the agency taking over management of the massive recalls to speed up repairs. The agency plans to make a decision on management by Thanksgiving.

NHTSA recently sent letters to seven more companies seeking information and warning that the recalls could be expanded. Recently Volkswagen and General Motors recalled side air bag inflators made by Takata. Previously the recalls had been limited to driver and passenger front air bags.

Over the weekend, GM said that it was recalling more than 400 vehicles because the side air bag inflators could rupture and send shrapnel into drivers and passengers, according to the company and documents posted by the safety agency.

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