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All over the world there are signs similar to this, is there the slightest bit of support for the danger of using a cell phone at the gas station?

Warning about using cell phones at the gas station

Related to: Are Personal Electronics Really a Risk to Commercial Aviation?

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Relevant Mythbusters link: dsc.discovery.com/videos/… –  user903 Mar 22 '11 at 18:08
    
That's unbelievable. Let's also be afraid that a cell phone accidentially ignites a piece of wood. –  sharptooth Mar 23 '11 at 12:35
    
I always think of the following scenario: If you drop your phone and the battery pops out, that may create a spark which could maybe ignite gas. But hell: How often when I got out of the car at a gas station and afterwards touched my car or the gas pump there was a little spark? And guess: There was no single explosion... I think your best chance is really some cheap Chinese battery, as @Russell pointed out. –  hurikhan77 Mar 23 '11 at 22:38
    
Distracted pumping, maybe? What if someone got so upset about what was happening on the phone, they forgot where they were and just had to light a cigarette? –  Paul Apr 1 '11 at 10:18
    
Consider that these places must carry specific insurance (example) and the insurance companies are concerned with reducing claims. As we've seen elsewhere, litigation can result in "strange" warning labels. It is likely, in light of lack of any other evidence, that this sign is an attempt to discourage lawsuits (or used to defend the company) in the unlikely event of an explosion or fire. –  BryanH Jul 23 '13 at 18:25
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2 Answers 2

up vote 32 down vote accepted

Snopes does a much better job of explaining this than I would. Basic summary. Not only has there not been a single confirmable incident reported worldwide that can be attributed to cell phones, no one has been able to reproduce it in a lab. If you take apart your phone and make an ignition switch out of it. and if the station you go to has poor vapor controls, you might succeed in igniting fumes from the pump.

Otherwise the only thing that's likely to even generate enough spark/heat to ignite fumes is if your phone's lithium battery ignites. There are a couple of documented cases of that, so if you're buying cheap batteries in china then in an exact perfect scenario at the pump, it could happen.

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But to prevent that risk, I'd have to turn it off, wouldn't I? They just seem to prohibit calling with it, not having it on. –  gerrit Dec 20 '12 at 1:03
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Dr Karl had some interesting points:

It is theoretically possible to set off a petrol fire with a phone. The amount of energy needed for a spark to ignite petrol vapour is 0.2 mJ, which is roughly one five-millionth of the energy stored in a fully-charged phone battery. The difficulty is that the phone is not designed to make sparks.

However, it seems that the phone is not what we should worry about.

And why worry about the phone battery when you have batteries in your iPod, CD player, mini-torch, and yes, don't forget the big 15 kg car battery that powers the electrics of your car? ... And consider that in the UK , some 200 Shell petrol stations have mobile phone towers in the tall petrol price indicators, which stand right there on the forecourt, a few metres from the petrol pumps... So what did set off those 243 petrol station fires? Most of the time, static electricity was the culprit.

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Is there a source for the "200 Shell petrol stations" figure? I don't doubt it but precise statements like that should be attributed I think. –  name removed Mar 31 '11 at 15:18
    
@Steve: All of that information is from Dr Karl. Unfortunately, he doesn't give a reference :-( –  Casebash Apr 1 '11 at 0:36
    
Ah, OK. Thanks. –  name removed Apr 1 '11 at 8:17
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protected by Community Jun 6 '13 at 7:32

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