Urban Myth???

Submitted: Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 10:03
ThreadID: 6219 Views:2542 Replies:19 FollowUps:26
This Thread has been Archived
I read in a recent post here on this forum about the dangers of using mobile phones at service stations whilst refuelling. A couple of days ago on ABC radio there was a discussion on this same subject and it has been suggested that this phenomena is an Urban Myth. It has been stated that there is no way that a mobile phone can generate enough static electricity to cause ignition of fuel. It was also stated by a government spokesperson for Hazardous Fuels that there has not been one proven case in Australia and world wide of mobile phones causing an explosion whilst at a petrol outlet. This has also been confirmed by a spokesperson for the Shell Oil Company.

Any thoughts to the contrary on this?????

Cheers, Willem
Never a dull moment
Back Expand Un-Read 0 Moderator

Reply By: Alan H - Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 10:36

Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 10:36
Willem, why run the risk? What is so important to the vast majority of the turkeys using these things everywhere I don't know.
Can't they wait just a few minutes before gobbing off in a loud voice so that everyone within a hundred metres can hear every word!
In the car, shops, pub, service station, every where!
I was in Carnarvon recently, and next to us in the c/park was a couple you couldn't hear until he got on the bloody mobile.
And then the big figures came out, the millions were thrown around, the bull, bull bull, would go on for ages.
They would have to be the worst, most abused invention of any time.

AnswerID: 26136

Reply By: Hedonist - Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 11:22

Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 11:22
Willem,

The danger is real, and not just from mobile phones - all battery operated equipment can can create a spark that will ignite a flammable gas mixture unless is is specifically designed for use in 'hazardous areas' where there may be flammable gas.

Industry standards for construction and use of electrical equipment in hazardous areas overcome this problem several different ways:
* Designs that make sure the equipment is gas-tight before they can be turned on
* Designs that limit the energy supplied by the battery so that short circuits cannot generate enough heat to ignite the gas
* Designs which will contain explosions within the equipment.

Equipment designed to these standards are tested make sure that they perform as designed. They are certified as "Explosion proof" or "Intrinsically safe" and can be safely used in hazardous areas.

If portable electrical equipment has NOT been designed for use in hazardous areas, it does not mean that it WILL be a source of ignition, but it MAY be a source of ignition, especially if it is faulty (Loose connections or short circuits)

Using a mobile phone while refuelling is a gamble.

Cheers,
Pete
AnswerID: 26141

Follow Up By: Old Jack - Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 12:04

Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 12:04
Stupidity is mother natures means of controlling the population!

Best one to see is someone filling up the tank, talking on the mobil phone pull out a smoke & light it up!

Arh DUCK!

0
FollowupID: 17765

Follow Up By: crfan - Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 15:41

Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 15:41
try this link....
http://www.snopes.com/autos/hazards/gasvapor.asp
0
FollowupID: 17787

Follow Up By: Member - Bonz (Vic) - Tuesday, Jul 29, 2003 at 19:56

Tuesday, Jul 29, 2003 at 19:56
I work in enclosed space sometimes were lead acid batteries also live and we arent to use our mobiles there either, same risk, not worth takingSo many places to go!
So much work to do :0(
0
FollowupID: 17879

Reply By: Simon - Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 12:23

Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 12:23
There might not be any hard evidence but there has been unexplained explosions at servos that 'may' have been caused by mobile phones.
Taking off a jumper can produce enough static electricity to ignight fumes on the right day.
Another thing that annoys me is people just chucking their cig butts on the ground at servos and the wind rolls them onto the driveway.
No onder bushfires start when people dont even think of the consequence of their actions.

I dont think useing a fone at the petrol pump is dangerous either but I dont take chances either.
You can chuck lit cig butts in a tin of petrol without it igniting but Im not about to make a habit of it.
AnswerID: 26145

Follow Up By: Member - Rohan K - Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 13:16

Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 13:16
Simon, just on your first point - The other night I headed to bed after the Mrs. The lights were out so I left them that way. I proceeded to remove the polar-fleece "jumper" I had on and you should have seen the light show!!! Blue sparks jumped everywhere across the jumper, zapping me all over the place.

It was quite spectacular. However, I sure as hell won't be removing a polar-fleece top at a servo (or anywhere near flamable gases) now.Smile, you're on ExplorOz
Rohan (Sydney - on the QLD side of the Harbour Bridge)
0
FollowupID: 17771

Reply By: pathfinder - Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 13:07

Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 13:07
I find it hard to believe that a mobile represents a greater danger than the potential electrical 'externalities' associated with vehicles themselves.
AnswerID: 26149

Follow Up By: Hedonist - Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 13:32

Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 13:32
Good point!

The problem with the phone is that the user is standing right over the fuel filler where the flammable vapours are escaping.

Incidentally, there is a well documented case of a mobile phone causing an explosion in Chevron Texaco plant lant year. A gas cloud was ignited when a worker answered his phone while working in a control panel where there was a gas leak.

Cheers,
Pete
0
FollowupID: 17772

Follow Up By: Dennis (Brisbane) - Tuesday, Jul 29, 2003 at 21:13

Tuesday, Jul 29, 2003 at 21:13
Well documented where??????
0
FollowupID: 17890

Follow Up By: Hedonist - Wednesday, Jul 30, 2003 at 00:01

Wednesday, Jul 30, 2003 at 00:01
Fair question Dennis,

It was distributed by Chevron Texaco to operating companies in the Oil and Gas industry in the form of a 'Safety Alert' around the middle of last year. The gas cloud was ignited as he flipped open the cover of his phone - he received second degree burns as I recall.

Pete
0
FollowupID: 17904

Follow Up By: Dennis (Brisbane) - Wednesday, Jul 30, 2003 at 19:27

Wednesday, Jul 30, 2003 at 19:27
All I can find on the internet (using Google) is some vague (and unconfirmed) posts regarding the above incident which involved a NATURAL GAS panel.

I am just wondering if anyone, anywhere has actually ever seen an original document released by a reputable source with official information?

Snopes.com has pretty much discounted all the petrol incidents as hoaxes. So I am left to wonder if this is just another one?
0
FollowupID: 17981

Reply By: Jason (macca) - Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 13:09

Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 13:09
I can remember a few years ago in Richmond NSW, A gentleman had broken down just outside of town. He had run out of fuel and decided to walk the few kilometers into town and buy a tin of fuel. On his return, he poured the 5 litres into the tank and in doing so, dropped the cars fuel cap. Being on a very dark stretch of road, he pulled his cigarette lighter out to use as a torch.......Didnt the night light up !!!!!! I dont remember the extent of his injuries but I do know that he lived. My mate is a retained fireman and went to the job.
AnswerID: 26150

Reply By: The Moose - Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 13:11

Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 13:11
Haven't heard of any explosions from mobile phones but as the others say why risk it. On the same line of discussion when I was in Weipa a few weeks ago I opened the back of the Cruiser and the servo fellow came over and told me that if I had a fridge in there to close the door. He said they'd actually had a 12 volt fridge cause a fire when the owner was filling up with unleaded - totally destroyed the car. Don't know if he was pulling my leg but he sure sounded serious.
AnswerID: 26151

Reply By: crfan - Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 13:22

Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 13:22
Try www.snopes.com.au it tells you on there it is an urban myth.
AnswerID: 26152

Follow Up By: Hedonist - Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 13:35

Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 13:35
Except that in this case there is hard evidence to the contrary.
0
FollowupID: 17773

Reply By: Member - Chris (Wollongong) - Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 13:42

Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 13:42
Solution......... Buy a diesel!!!!!
AnswerID: 26155

Follow Up By: yarda - Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 14:07

Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 14:07
Doesn't matter Chris, used to work in aviation, when working near open fuel tanks or fuelling with Jet a1 (High grade Kero) which has the higher flash point like diesel, equiptment had to be fully grounded, radios had to be intrinsically safe , no mobiles , sealed torches, intrinsic worklites etc etc. The risk is very real - just slightly less with diesel.
0
FollowupID: 17775

Follow Up By: Ray M (Vic) - Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 14:07

Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 14:07
GSM or CDMAHooroo
0
FollowupID: 17776

Follow Up By: Ray M (Vic) - Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 14:08

Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 14:08
GSM or CDMAHooroo
0
FollowupID: 17777

Follow Up By: yarda - Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 14:10

Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 14:10
Doesn't matter Chris, used to work in aviation, when working near open fuel tanks or fuelling with Jet a1 (High grade Kero) which has the higher flash point like diesel, equiptment had to be fully grounded, radios had to be intrinsically safe , no mobiles , sealed torches, intrinsic worklites etc etc. The risk is very real - just slightly less with diesel.
0
FollowupID: 17778

Follow Up By: yarda - Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 14:10

Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 14:10
Doesn't matter Chris, used to work in aviation, when working near open fuel tanks or fuelling with Jet a1 (High grade Kero) which has the higher flash point like diesel, equiptment had to be fully grounded, radios had to be intrinsically safe , no mobiles , sealed torches, intrinsic worklites etc etc. The risk is very real - just slightly less with diesel.
0
FollowupID: 17779

Follow Up By: Truckster (Vic) - Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 15:46

Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 15:46
Yards.. Are you comparing Avgas to Diesel? Im lost why it wouldnt matter..

you can throw match in diesel and be smiling...
0
FollowupID: 17790

Follow Up By: howshouldibloodyknow - Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 16:39

Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 16:39
Truckster....Not Avgas.....Avtur (JetA1)

Avgas is your piston engine fuel (low flashpoint like Unleaded) where as Avtur is for Jets (Kero) with higher flashpoint.

Jet A1 would still be much more volatile than diesel though.

Wouldnt bother me at all using a mobile phone whilst refuelling my truck. (Not that I do though)
0
FollowupID: 17791

Reply By: crfan - Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 15:07

Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 15:07
Incidentally, there is a well documented case of a mobile phone causing an explosion in Chevron Texaco plant lant year. A gas cloud was ignited when a worker answered his phone while working in a control panel where there was a gas leak.

WELL DOCUMENTED ? I havent seen any thing about it and you said a gas leak
that is not the same as filing up you car with petrol or diesel (thats were the stickers are on the bowsers in W.A.)
AnswerID: 26166

Follow Up By: Hedonist - Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 18:22

Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 18:22
crfan,

I understand your scepticism - I like the 'Urban Legends Reference Pages' at snopes and have long found them useful in debunkning myths.

I work in the Oil & Gas industry and deal with this issue every day. ISO standards, Australia standards and electrical classification societies have regulated the use of portable electrical equipment for decades. It is not a new issue.

The lack of cases where there is proof that mobile phones have ignited fuel vapours does not mean that there is no risk. The volumes of cases for other electrical devices are proof enough. There is nothing unique about the battery in a mobile phone that makes it any safer than any other battery.

The explosion at Chevron Texaco last year has been the subject of Industry Safety Alerts shared between operators in the interests of improving safety. It is not internet folklore.

Most countries and suppliers warn against the use of phones while refuelling, so most people don't. If everybody did, it would not be long before cases were documented to convince the sceptics.

Yes, the risk is small, but it is genuine. Whether you take it or not is up to you.

Cheers,
Pete
0
FollowupID: 17800

Reply By: bruce - Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 15:23

Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 15:23
There was a chap on one of these forums a while back who said that it was o.k. to travel with your caravan fridge running on gas...imagine being at the servo when he rolled up with naked flame and petrol fumes every where...geez
AnswerID: 26167

Reply By: Groove - Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 15:35

Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 15:35
I dont think the issue with mobile phones is as a result of the RF radiated but rather the batteries. One case I read about was of a phone igniting fumes when it was dropped, as the battery fell away from the phone a spark resulted and it went bang.

I reaaly would find it hard to imagine the RF from a mobile phone causing a spark that would ignite fumes.

Groove
AnswerID: 26168

Reply By: Member - Bob - Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 16:41

Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 16:41
There were two theoretical concerns 1. RF . 2 Spark from battery. Both are so remote you would have a greater chance by a factor of about ten thousand of being killed in a crash on the way to the garage, being shot by a sniper while refuelling, or being hit by lightning. THERE IS NO RISK IN USING A PHONE WHILE REFUELLING.
AnswerID: 26170

Follow Up By: Alan H - Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 17:12

Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 17:12
As I said previously, however small or remote the risk, whats so important the users of these things have got to stand gobbing off into one of those things whilst refuelling!
Can't it wait until they've finished and are preferably out of earshot of others, so they don't have to listen to the bull that goes on.
0
FollowupID: 17795

Reply By: Brian - Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 19:17

Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 19:17
I seriously cannot believe that anyone would advocate using ANYTHING electrically inclined in a service station. Think about this people..... who wants to be the guy floating upwards (downwards?) sprouting wings thinking to themselves.."ok.. I was wrong......." Whether the internet says its ok or not ok is not the point... the point is "is it worth the risk??????????????????????????????"

Let me also say ..that IF it was proved that your "source of ignition" caused an explosion at a servo.... you would "probably" lose everything....if you survived!
Common sense should prevail!!!!
AnswerID: 26181

Follow Up By: pathfinder - Tuesday, Jul 29, 2003 at 09:22

Tuesday, Jul 29, 2003 at 09:22
Brian - if you aren't keen on using ANYTHING 'electrically inclined' in a service station, you better not take your vehicle in there ;)
0
FollowupID: 17839

Follow Up By: Brian - Tuesday, Jul 29, 2003 at 19:15

Tuesday, Jul 29, 2003 at 19:15
I'll stand by my comments here... Obviously vehicles have more of a risk of "sparking" than phones do... but the fact is that when I pull up to a bowser there is a sign that informs me to switch my phone off... I have also been instructed to do this by the oil companies site induction system from my having to work on those ice cabinets on the forecourt. I was also not permitted to use cordless drills, torches, or any other tools that were electrically/battery operated. Common sense prevails here in that "if" an explosion occurred, it may be construed as "my fault" if it can be proven that my phone was on or in use at the time. A vehicle that causes a spark and blows up a servo is less likely to cause a fuss, after all, it is actually at the servo for the reason the servo exists, right??? Phones are also not meant to be utilised in hospitals.... is there any real proof that they interfere with medical equipment??? Personally I think they ask you not to use them in hospitals simply so phones aren't ringing every 5 minutes or so and disturbing everyone..... but who wants to take the chance?? I rely on my phone for work but I turn my phone OFF in servo's...... and hospitals... and airplanes.... and therefore MY assetts and insurances etc are safe..........
I ain't saying all of you lot have to follow me... but if you're using your phone in a servo when I am there to fill up... be prepared for abuse!!! :-)
Cheers
Brian
0
FollowupID: 17877

Reply By: Rob S - Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 21:06

Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 21:06
Some good info on this subject so far (and some bad/misinformed!) - here is my .02c - plus the real reason why they don't want you to do it!

I work in the mobile comms industry and have been designing networks and working with GSM handsets/terminals for 8 years.

There is minimal risk of the RF emissions from a handset causing a spark. Considering the 'Fact' that someone in a gas plant/wherever answered their
phone & caused an explosion. Even when your phone is not being used to make a call - it will still transmit every so often to communicate its location to the network. This is done with a similar amount of RF to a phone converstation. So I just don't buy this story.

What is of significance is that, yes, the battery pack may cause a spark if it shifts around next to the phone body. But consider the risk of sparks caused by the electrical systems in a car. In the engine bay are several sources of sparks (HT system, solenoids, electrical motors) and all are at risk of coming into contact with fuel vapour. Also - synthetic fibres in your clothes/seat covers will generate a high static charge which you will feel if you then touch the metal car body.

What has not been mentioned yet - are the cases where the phone causes the fuel pump from which you are refuelling to give an erroneous readout - and the servo might lose out by not being able to charge you correctly. Similar to the claim that mobiles can upset aircraft systems. This is probably the main risk they are worried about. Plus wanting to cover their arses - which is understandable.

I would rather people used their phones at servos than at 100kph out on the road - which do you consider the higher risk?

Rob
AnswerID: 26193

Follow Up By: Truckster (Vic) - Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 22:43

Monday, Jul 28, 2003 at 22:43
What has not been mentioned yet - are the cases where the phone causes the fuel pump from which you are refuelling to give an erroneous readout - and the servo might lose out by not being able to charge you correctly.

I'll test this one out tomorrow when I fill up! Thanks for the tip!!!!
0
FollowupID: 17831

Follow Up By: joc45 - Tuesday, Jul 29, 2003 at 00:37

Tuesday, Jul 29, 2003 at 00:37
Rob,
Agree. If it is forbidden to use a phone near a refilling station, then it should be law to switch it off before pulling into the station, coz it periodically communicates with the base station without your intervention.
The risk of spark from the RF of a phone is virtually non-existant coz the power is just too low. From a 25w VHF/UHF two-way, maybe yes, if metal contact with the antenna was made while transmitting.
There is more risk of a spark from internal switchgear in a car - ignition switch, relays, starter solenoid, window switches, and yes, the thermostat switch in a fridge. True, most of these switches are enclosed, reducing the risk of gas reaching the spark, but the risk is there.
All the above have nothing to do with static electricity, which is the main reason why planes are earthed before filling up.
But there must be a quite high risk of generating static electricity when sliding off a vinyl car seat to get out, or removing a pullover near the bowser. I know I've drawn quite hefty sparks from the vehicle after sliding out off the seat. Perhaps I should stay put in the wagon and ask the attendant to fill er up (joke - where can you get an attendant nowadays?).
Gerry
0
FollowupID: 17836

Reply By: stevesub - Tuesday, Jul 29, 2003 at 09:47

Tuesday, Jul 29, 2003 at 09:47
I agree that the RF distubing the pump-s is more that likely the real problem. A car with a cracked and or dirty distributor throwing sparks everywhere, faulty plug leads, static from clothes, etc is risk of sparks than a phone or CB.
AnswerID: 26232

Reply By: Member - Glenn(VIC) - Tuesday, Jul 29, 2003 at 12:12

Tuesday, Jul 29, 2003 at 12:12
Oohhh Willem...You've done it again : )

Well done mate.Just Do It!

AnswerID: 26240

Follow Up By: Member - Willem- Tuesday, Jul 29, 2003 at 17:37

Tuesday, Jul 29, 2003 at 17:37
Hi Glenn,

Hmmmmm..........It would seem so. This subject has even attracted another thread in a more recent post.

The interesting thing is that in 1986(long before the advent of present day mobile phones) whilst on our way to the Kimberley, our travelling companions got ahead of us. We were in HF radio comm mode and then I passed them refuelling at a servo. I called my mate up on the HF.
He( being a radio tech with Telecom) got very annoyed with me about this and told me in no uncertain terms of the dangers of using radio communications near operating fuel bowsers.

I have had a mobile phone since 1992. These days however I am on a $10 plan and use it maybe once a month or when we go on holiday. And NO, I do not find the need to use it at a servo:-))

Thanks for all the interesting feedback, fellas.

Cheers, Willem
Never a dull moment
0
FollowupID: 17867

Follow Up By: joc45 - Tuesday, Jul 29, 2003 at 18:47

Tuesday, Jul 29, 2003 at 18:47
Ah Willem, that's another thing again. In that case, the Telecom Techie was right. Most HFs run about 100w peak power (PEP). I have seen a mis-tuned whip antenna firing sparks off the end into the open air when talking (true!!). I wouldn't like to be filling the tank when that's happening.
A GSM mobile puts out no more than about 0.5w peak, and can be much lower, depending on your distance from the base station. I recall that the CDMA mobiles are similar.
Perhaps the cheap plans are more risky ;-)
Gerry
0
FollowupID: 17873

Reply By: Allyn (Pilbara) - Tuesday, Jul 29, 2003 at 16:11

Tuesday, Jul 29, 2003 at 16:11
Most of it's been covered above but the problem is because the phones are not intrinsically safe. It only takes the slightest ignition source and you potentially have a huge problem. The chances are slim but entirely possible and it's by no means an urban myth.
I work in a Gas Generation (Hydrogen) & Process Plant and these things are banned from our site, as they are on offshore platforms etc. and most industries I imagine would have restricted areas for their use.
Given that a servo is a much less controlled area and the risk of ignition is far greater, I am glad they are banned and appalled at the average Joe Blow who knows better and ignores the warnings.
Just my thoughtsso many places, so little time !!!
AnswerID: 26256

Follow Up By: Member - Bob - Tuesday, Jul 29, 2003 at 17:34

Tuesday, Jul 29, 2003 at 17:34
Allyn, I would imagine the risks with hydrogen are infinitely greater than with petrol, just as petrol is riskier than dieso. If it were such a problem with petrol, I think we would be seeing more blown bowsers than we presently do (none).
0
FollowupID: 17866

Reply By: Member - Bonz (Vic) - Tuesday, Jul 29, 2003 at 19:54

Tuesday, Jul 29, 2003 at 19:54
Willem,

There must be something cause I havent farted as much since I got my mobile and its all due to the small discharge the phone puts out getting thru my body and igniting the gases in that most secret of places. Its gotta be the mobile, I am sure!!So many places to go!
So much work to do :0(
AnswerID: 26280

Follow Up By: Member - Willem- Tuesday, Jul 29, 2003 at 20:12

Tuesday, Jul 29, 2003 at 20:12
Bonz,

Are you sure that you are placing the mobile near the correct orifice? :-))Cheers, Willem
Never a dull moment
0
FollowupID: 17887

Reply By: Member - Colin (ACT region) - Tuesday, Jul 29, 2003 at 22:58

Tuesday, Jul 29, 2003 at 22:58
So the solution to this 'urban myth' is to

Turn off the engine before entering the servo - the alternator might spark fumes from someone else already filling up.

don't get out of the car as the static elect from you to the car can cause a flash.

don't use the pump as the electric motor in the pump may cause a spark.

and definitely don't use your mobile phone.

If the information on this is in the newspaper, on TV or in a Web page then it must be true as are all urban myths!

The odds of any fire in a servo must be enormously small considering the number of 'fill ups' happening around the world, with maybe a couple of incidents.

NB - A few years ago the fuel line on my Camira developed a leak in the fuel line (an inteligent mechanic had routed the line next to the steering shaft which rubbed a hole in it). The fuel was spraying directly onto the alternator and there was no fire - lucky me!
Colin - Subaru Forester
- size isn't everything ! -
AnswerID: 26301

Sponsored Links

Popular Products (13)