In “Can My Cell Phone Cause an Explosion at the Pumps?” (AOL Autos, Oct, 10 2009), Josh Max says:
“Cell phones continue to be cited as causing fires at the pump in e-mails circulating on the Internet,” says the Petroleum Equipment Institute. “So far, we have been unable to document any incidents that were sparked by a cellular telephone. In fact, many researchers have tried to ignite fuel vapors with a cell phone and failed.”
Though there have been many internet reports of cell phones causing fires and explosions at pumps, the only accredited account happened in 2004.
New Paltz fire chief Patrick Koch attributed the blaze to static electricity coming from the motorist’s cell phone. But Koch retreated from that stance shortly after the incident, saying, “Upon further investigation of the accident scene and another discussion with the victim of the May 13 gasoline station fire in New Paltz, I have concluded the source of ignition was from some source other than the cell phone the motorist was carrying. Although we will probably never know for sure, the source of ignition was most likely static discharge from the motorist himself to the nozzle dispensing the gasoline.”
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), scoffs further at any potential danger, saying, “The wireless industry has done studies on the potential for wireless phones to create sparks that could possibly ignite flammable materials…while it may be theoretically possible for a spark from a cell phone battery to ignite gas vapor under very precise conditions, there is no documented incident where the use of a wireless phone was found to cause a fire or explosion at a gas station.”
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Interesting. We need to be more careful about discharging any static electricity we might accumulate than we do about controlling electric current or electric discharge of a cell phone! I wonder what the magnitude of the current and voltages are in each case…I’ll have to look that up…