Mobiles at bowsers an 'urban myth'

CAN mobile phones really cause explosions at petrol bowsers?

A warning from Victoria’s peak automotive industry body, the VACC, in Saturday’s Drive section of The Northern Star, prompted a swift response from the CEO of the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA), Chris Althaus.

“It’s a well-documented urban myth,” he said.

“Scientific research shows the risk of ignition from mobile phone use at a petrol station is negligible and the British Institute of Petroleum has also concluded (the same).

“While we are happy to assist petrol station owners to maintain their ban on mobiles, their public warnings should be based on scientific fact, and not perpetuated urban myth.”

The debate has been raging for years and, according to the ABC’s Media Watch, the notion is a furphy that originated from the internet and first appeared in the Australian press in 1996.

Like all good urban myths, it quickly gained acceptance.

Despite repeated retractions in the Australian media, and the rejection of the threat by the NRMA and petroleum giants Caltex and Shell in 2003, the story keeps doing the rounds and the petrol industry appears keen to maintain it.

So if the AMTA agrees it is unwise to use mobile phones at the bowser, why do its members continue to fight the myth?

“It’s just wrong,” Mr Althaus said.

“It creates a sense of danger where there isn’t one in relation to mobile phones

“We don’t want people to be fearful when they’re using their phones, we want them to be responsible and safe – and if that means concentrating on pumping petrol rather than fighting with your girlfriend on the phone, then that’s a good idea too.

“Substantive research shows that static electricity generated by getting back into your car has more chance of causing an explosion than sparks from mobile phones.”

Colin Long, operations manager of the Service Station Association of Australia, said their firm policy was to not use mobile phones in petrol station driveways for two reasons.

“Firstly, the public needs to have their full attention when handling a dangerous good such as petrol; and secondly, there is the view that if the phone was inadvertently dropped on the concrete, a spark could be caused by the battery,” he said.

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