The Mobile Myth: phones pose no risk to planes or petrol pumps

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The Independent Online

Almost all of us carry hand-held devices which could down aircraft or blow up petrol stations. Or so we are told.

Almost all of us carry hand-held devices which could down aircraft or blow up petrol stations. Or so we are told.

Yet an academic study this week will explode the myths that have surrounded mobile phones since the first refrain of "I'm on the train" was heard in the late 1980s.

The annual conference of the British Sociological Association will be told that a mix of the internet, rumour and excessive concerns over safety have created "phantom risks".

The ban on mobile phones in most areas of hospitals was lifted last July. But the Medical and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency said mobile-free areas should still be enforced in areas with sensitive equipment.

The study, Cell Phones, Risks and Rumours, argues that mobile phones do not interfere with aircraft navigation or cause fuel to explode, and questions whether any hospital has ever experienced a problem.

A lit cigarette is not hot enough to ignite petrol at a filling station, never mind the low voltage of a mobile phone, it argues.

Yet such is the persistence of the rumour that signs at filling stations warn against using mobiles, and Nokia and Motorola issued warnings in their instruction booklets. "The ban was not based on any scientific research, but a relatively instinctive precautionary response from those charged with responsibility for safety at British service stations," the study says.

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