I Told You Not to Call Me at the Pump

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For Godís sake, hang up — itís gonna blow! Cell phones are annoying, they cause car accidents, and they may give you brain cancer. Now, it seems, they may be combustible. Almost sheepishly claiming that "prudence is probably the best policy," BP Amoco spokeswoman Linda McCray announced Friday that cell phone use near fuel pumps at its U.S. gas stations will now be verboten. "This is not a ban — this is a precautionary warning," she explained, pointing to the very slim possibility that a malfunctioning cell phone could generate sparks and cause an entire station — not to mention the offending gabber — to go kerblooey.

TIME senior science editor Phil Elmer-DeWitt wonders about that — "Iíd like to see them replicate this in a lab. I give a lot more credence to the brain cancer theory," he says — but thatís almost beside the point. Has a cigarette-style war over Americaís favorite new toy finally begun? "There is no evidence whatsoever that a wireless phone has ever caused ignition or explosion at a gas station anywhere in the world," scoffed Tom Wheeler, president of the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association, in a written statement. But to DeWitt, that might as well have come from the CEO of Philip Morris. "We know these guys lie," he says. So judge the risks of connectivity yourself — keeping in mind that the cellular honchos issued the very same denial about the cancer risk. Better call back.