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Mobiles and petrol stations do mix

Explosion risk something of a dead granny

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Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications

It is well known to regular Register readers that mobile phones very dangerous pieces of equipment. If they aren't mashing your mojo, they'll be causing brain tumours or enticing you to plunge ten floors to your death in search of a better signal. Just. Plain. Evil.

Or so we thought. But it turns out that they are not quite so diabolical as all that. There is at least one place your mobile phone will not kill you: the forecourt of a petrol station.

We know, we know: a spark from the phone will ignite the fumes bringing all life as you know it to a fiery end. You've read about it, the petrol stations have those nice clear warning signs and you might even have seen it happen on an episode of CSI.

Phones don't kill people, people kill people

But researchers at the University of Kent now say this is not so. In the last eleven years there have been 243 petrol station fires worldwide attributed to mobiles. But according to a paper by Dr Adam Burgess, not a single one was actually caused by a spark from a mobile.

According to investigations by oil company BP, in many cases static electricity discharging from a person created the spark that triggered the blaze.

Burgess told the Press Association: "The petrol station/mobile phone story crosses into the realm of rumour and urban legend. It’s properly groundless, a story of health and safety gone mad."

The bans on using mobile phones at petrol stations were first brought in after the Piper-Alpha oil rig disaster, in which 167 oil-workers lost their lives. According to Burgess, the ban was not actually based on any evidence, but was a precautionary response to the disaster.

He added that there seems to be no desire on the part of UK health and safety officials or oil companies to clarify the situation.

In the mean time, you can only hope that your car doesn't give you a shock next time you fill up...®

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