Was at the Shell station yesterday to pick up the Sunday Times and saw a new poster asking people not to do unsafe things while refuelling. Most of them were sensible, such as asking people not to refuel while on motorbikes. But one of them struck me as giving in to urban legend: asking people not to use their handphone at the station. As always, Snopes debunks the myth:
As for incidents elsewhere in the world, after several reports in the United States where mobile phones were blamed for fires at gas stations, both the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) and the American Petroleum Institute issued statements denying the risk. The CTIA said, "There is no evidence whatsoever that a wireless phone has ever caused ignition or explosion at a station anywhere in the world. Wireless phones don't cause gas stations to blow up. Warnings being posted in petrol stations simply perpetuate the myth." The American Petroleum Institute said, "We can find no evidence of someone using a cellphone causing any kind of accident, no matter how small, at a gas station anywhere in the world."It's funny how handphones get blamed for all manner of powerful effects... as the Economist noted last week, dozens of phones are often accidentally left on in planes daily, and yet no one's ever found an incident where the plane's controls were affected by the transmission. (The real reason you're asked to turn off your phone, according to the Economist, is that it interferes with other mobile phone signals on the ground.)
Even the theoretical idea that a handphone could cause an explosion has not yet been proven experimentally:
According to some experts there is a danger that using a mobile phone near gas pumps could touch off an explosion, but not only have we found no real-life instances of such an explosion occurring, we don't know anyone who has demonstrated experimentally that it's even possible (including the folks at The Discovery Channel's Mythbusters program).Oh well, I'm ever the skeptical one.
Actually, that reminds me of the funniest warning I've seen in a petrol station - or gas station, since this was in Illinois. It read, basically, "do not use your mouth to siphon gas".
The Health Physics Society on cellphones and gas stations
Spassmeister also finds it absurd.