Boycott Watch
September 11, 2003
'Gas Station Static Alert' email is flawed -
Boycott Watch corrects the record.
   Summary: This report debunks misinformation in an email about using cell phones while at gas stations.
   An email is circulation claiming that cell phones cause fires at gas stations, and warning people not to use their cell phones while pumping gas. While the email has some merit with its title about static, there are no documented cases regarding cell phones being the cause of fires while fueling cars.

   Shell Oil Company has informed Boycott Watch that the email being sent out is "not a bona fide communication from Shell." As such, Shell can not verify the legitimacy of the email as originating from Shell.

   There have been, however, reports that static has been linked to sparks and fires at the gasoline pumps, but there are no direct correlations to cell phones as the cause. The cause of the static is, however, related to motorists re-entering the vehicle while refueling, which is very tempting in the winter months to keep warm.

   The Petroleum Equipment Institute, which is credited as the source of the data, does have a link on their web site about static at the gas pumps, but the only mention of a cell phone in the log of 149 incidents covering more than 12 years did not implicate the cell phones. The report mentioned that a cell phone was being used before a fire was detected, but the cell phone was not considered the cause of the fire.

   The Shell letter to Boycott Watch summed up the cell phone situation as follows: "The use of mobile phones while refueling a vehicle is … discouraged because it may divert concentration and lead to possible spills and accidents."

   .Boycott Watch therefore feels that the email in circulation is inaccurate. The real problem of static is caused by people re-entering their vehicles during the fueling process, which is most commonly done to keep warm in the winter.
Supporting Articlesand Web Sites:
Petroleum Equipment Institute
Start Of Original email:
Subject: Gas Station Alert

   The Shell Oil Company recently issued a warning after three incidents in which mobile phones (cell phones) ignited fumes during fueling operations.

   In the first case, the phone was placed on the car's trunk lid during fueling; it rang and the ensuing fire destroyed the car and the gasoline pump.

   In the second, an individual suffered severe burns to their face when fumes ignited as they answered a call while refueling their car.

   And in the third, an individual suffered burns to the thigh and groin as fumes ignited when the phone, which was in their pocket, rang while they were fueling their car.

You should know that:

   Mobile Phones can ignite fuel or fumes

   Mobile phones that light up when switched on or when they ring release enough energy to provide a spark for ignition

   Mobile phones should not be used in filling stations, or when fueling lawn mowers, boat! , Etc.

   Mobile phones should not be used, or should be turned off, around other materials that generate flammable or explosive fumes or dust, (i.e. solvents, chemicals, gases, grain dust, etc.)

   To sum it up, here are the: Four Rules for Safe Refueling

1) Turn off engine
2) Don't smoke
3) Don't use your cell phone - leave it inside the vehicle or turn it off
4) Don't re-enter your vehicle during fueling

   Bob Renkes of Petroleum Equipment Institute is working on a campaign to try and make people aware of fires as a result of" static electricity" at gas pumps. His company has researched 150 cases of these fires.

His results were very surprising:
1) Out of 150 cases, almost all of them were women.
2) Almost all cases involved the person getting back in their vehicle while the nozzle was still pumping gas. When finished, they went back to pull the nozzle out and the fire started, as a result of static.
3) Most had on rubber-soled shoes.
4) Most men never get back in their vehicle until completely finished. This is why they are seldom involved in these types of fires.
5) Don't ever use cell phones when pumping gas
6) It is the vapors that come out of the gas that cause the fire, when connected with static charges.
7) There were 29 fires where the vehicle was re-entered and the nozzle was touched during refueling from a variety of makes and models. Some resulted in extensive damage to the vehicle, to the station, and to the customer..
8) Seventeen fires occurred before, during or immediately after the gas cap was removed and before fueling began.

   Mr. Renkes stresses to NEVER get back into your vehicle while filling it with gas.

   If you absolutely HAVE to get in your vehicle while the gas is pumping, make sure you get out, close the door TOUCHING THE METAL, before you ever pull the nozzle out. This way the static from your body will be discharged before you ever remove the nozzle.

   As I mentioned earlier, The Petroleum Equipment Institute, along with several other companies now, are really trying to make the public aware of this danger. You can find out more information by going to Once here, click in the center of the screen where it says "Stop Static".

   I ask you to please send this information to ALL your family and friends, especially those who have kids in the car with them while pumping gas. If this were to happen to them, they may not be able to get the children out in time. Thanks for passing this along.
End Of Original email:
Boycott Watch Note: The injuries above are not supported by the PEI as caused by cell phones usage.
---- Start of Shell Response -----

   Dear Mr. Taub:

   That "warning" you refer to is not a bona fide communication from Shell. This email has been circulating on the internet for some time now. We can't vouch for the events it describes, or the source of the email.

   We are aware that there have been reports of fires or small explosions, including some at service stations, when a mobile phone was present. We understand that, in most instances, there is still not conclusive evidence of the ignition source. We do not wish to speculate on possible linkage of any specific incident to mobile phone use.

   Although there have been a number of studies, there is no conclusive and generally accepted proof that all mobile phones are safe to use in potentially explosive environments.

   A number of mobile phone manufacturers recommend that their phones are not used in areas with potentially explosive atmospheres. The following is an example (Ericsson T66): "Turn off your mobile phone when in any area with a potentially explosive atmosphere. It is rare, but your mobile phone or its accessories could generate sparks. Sparks in such areas could cause an explosion or fire resulting in bodily injury or even death. Areas with a potentially explosive atmosphere are often, but not always, clearly marked. They include fuelling in areas such petrol stations, below decks on boats, fuel or chemical transfer or storage facilities"

   We consider that the risk from the use of mobile phones on a retail site, particularly in sections away from the refueling area and tank vents, to be low, but cannot be totally ruled out. In such circumstances we have adopted a precautionary approach.

   The use of mobile phones while refueling a vehicle is also discouraged because it may divert concentration and lead to possible spills and accidents.

   There are static electricty issues not associated with cell phones, however. I'd refer you to the American Petroleum Institute's website on that issue:

   If you have further questions or would like more information, feel free to contact us at the link below. Please submit replies using the 'Submit Inquiry' link to ensure we receive your inquiry.

Shell Oil Company
Media Center
---- End of Shell Response -----

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