[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Sunday, 20 March, 2005, 16:17 GMT
Petrol station mobile risk 'myth'
Mobile phone
Mobile phones remain 'a mysterious, unexplained hazard'
The commonly-held belief that turning on a mobile phone in a petrol station can cause an explosion could be a myth, researchers have said.

Dr Adam Burgess, of the University of Kent, will present his findings to a conference later this week.

He will say that out of 243 petrol station fires attributed to mobiles around the world in the last 11 years, not one was caused by a handset.

Researchers said static electricity from the body caused many of the fires.

'Urban legend'

BP's fire safety officer Richard Coates found that many happened after discharge of static from the body ignited petrol fumes.

"The petrol station/mobile phone story crosses into the realm of rumour and urban legend," Dr Burgess said.

"Even on an oil rig, the only real reason not to use a mobile is because of the issue of distraction."

Dr Burgess said the Piper Alpha tragedy of 1988, when 167 men died off the coast of Scotland after an explosion, gave "shape and momentum" to the drive for safety.

He said bans on mobiles at service stations were the result of "a relatively instinctive precautionary response".

Cell phones remain a mysterious, unexplained hazard
Dr Adam Burgess

He said manufacturers' warnings not to use mobiles at petrol stations because of the risk of fire gave the idea further credence.

A lit cigarette was not hot enough to ignite petrol on a filling station, let alone the low voltage of a mobile phone, he claimed.

"In practice, the restriction continues to be enforced on the basis that there is something inherently dangerous about the cell phone in such an environment.

"Cell phones remain a mysterious, unexplained hazard at the gas station."

Nokia halts mobile fuel cell plan
04 Mar 05 |  Science/Nature
Bead 'slashes mobile radiation'
25 Jan 05 |  Health
Vivid memories of Piper Alpha
07 Jul 04 |  Scotland



News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific