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Are Cell Phones hazardous
at the Gas Pump?

By: Elizabeth Nelson

Recently, everyone is throwing around warnings regarding cell phones and brain cancer, memory loss, and other health risks. I have now heard another rumor-- Using a cell phone at a gas pump can lead to an explosion. However, the ESD Journal strongly encourages you not to believe everything you hear or read!

There is an email going around that started the rumors. It reads: "Warning: Cell phone use in gas stations. In case you do not know, there was an incident where where a driver suffered burns and his car severely damaged when gasoline fumes ignited an explosion while he was talking on his mobile phone standing near the attendant who was pumping the gas. All the electric devices in gas stations are protected with explosive containment devices, (intrinsically safe) while cell phones are not. READ YOUR HANDBOOK! Mobile phone makers Motorola, Ericsson, and Nokia, all print cautions in their user handbooks that warn against mobile phones in "gas stations, fuel storage sites, and chemical factories." Exxon has begun placing "warning stickers" at its gasoline stations. The threat mobile phones pose to gas stations and their users is primarily the result of their ability to produce sparks that can be generated by the high-powered battery inside the phone. Please pass this on."

Even though parts of this message are true, the majority is not. Cell phone manufacturers do place warnings concerning cell phone use at gas stations, but this is because of our county's obsession with lawsuits. Businesses must take every precaution to keep themselves safe, even if it means placing warnings on incidents that have one in a billion chance of happening.

According to one Motorola brochure: "This telephone has not been designed or approved for use in potentially explosive atmospheres. Areas with a potentially explosive atmosphere are often, not always, clearly marked. Potentially explosive atmospheres include: Fueling areas such as gasoline stations..." This seems more like a common sense warning or precaution. Did you expect that your cell phone was "designed" for use in "potentially explosive atmospheres"? Industry spokespeople have even explained that the actual risk is very slim. Sometimes, we all know, that it is better safe than sorry!

I believe that many of the "reports" of explosions caused by "cell phones" are actually the result of static electricity. These types of explosions happen regardless of cell phone use. The ESD Journal has reported on many cases of gas pump explosions, and so far, none have involved a cell phone.

Informative article from Charleston Daily Mail reporting on an explosion from static electricity at a gas pump.

See these related ESD Journal Articles:
Gas Pumps Burst into Flames
Static, Exploding Cars?
Another Gas Pump Fire Injures 12 year old

Do you have any information on this subject? We want to hear from you!



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