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More Well-Meaning But Misleading Emails

Written by Wellness Club on April 23, 2013 – 12:55 pm -

By Nurse Mark


I’ve often written in HealthBeat News about the volumes of well-meaning but misleading and even silly emails that are forwarded to us. AIDS infected gas pumps, gang initiation headlight flashing, coughing or drinking water to save yourself from heart attack, and on and on…

These various warnings and exhortations are invariably attributed to very official sounding sources – Mayo or Cleveland Clinic, the Surgeon General, famous doctors of all stripes, impressive-sounding “institutes” or universities, major corporations… And just as invariably a little bit of quick research exposes them for what they are – well-meaning but often goofy advice masquerading as a “public service announcement.”

There is usually a grain of common sense or truth in these spam emails, but it is often a very small grain indeed. Here is yet another example of a “public service” email that has been making the rounds for as long as I can remember.

Please send this information to ALL your family & friends, especially those who have kids in the car with them while pumping gas. If this were to happen, they may not be able to get the children out in time.

Shell Oil Comments – A MUST READ! Safety Alert! Here are some reasons why we don’t allow cell phones in operating areas, propylene oxide handling and storage area, propane, gas and diesel refueling areas. The Shell Oil Company recently issued a warning after three incidents in which mobile phones (cell phones) ignited fumes during fueling operations

Notice some things about this email that are common to most of this type:

  • Lots of ALL CAPS warnings and orders to not delete, and must read.
  • A demand that you forward the email to everyone you know.
  • The invocation of an official-sounding source for the information.
  • A complete absence of verifiable references.
  • A warning of horrible consequences if the advice is ignored.
  • An emotional appeal – “It’s for the safety of the children”…

Now to be fair, there is some common sense in this “public service announcement” – just enough in fact that it might, possibly be plausible. And that’s how these things take on a life of their own, filling up endless email in-boxes. Even though they may contain some crumbs of good sense, they are still spam.

So, to do yourself and everybody in your email address book a favor, here is how you can find out if these emails are real or made-up. is a great resource for debunking emails such as this, and there are others.

Alternately, just copy the subject line of the email into your favorite search engine like Google or Yahoo or Bing and you’ll likely see dozens of entries indicating whether it is true or bogus. That’s what I did for the email above and here is what I found:

Snopes says “Bogus”.

BUT – remember, there are crumbs of common sense in most of these emails that make the whole email seem more believable.

Pumping gasoline and diesel fuel DOES generate static electricity – in automobiles and other vehicles this is dealt with through the metal to metal contact of the fuel filler nozzle and the filler neck of the car which grounds the car.

In airplanes it is dealt with by always attaching a grounding wire to the airplane during refueling.

When refilling portable cans, they should be always placed on the ground when being filled to help dissipate any static buildup and the filler nozzle should be kept in contact with the can as much as possible. I have had experience with military and industrial refueling depots where grounding wires were provided for that purpose.

The “4 safety rules” mentioned in the email are worthwhile however:

To sum it up, here are the Four Rules for Safe Refueling: (With comments by Nurse Mark)

1) Turn off engine (Well, duh! – Like leaving it running is going to save you time somehow? For a fast getaway maybe?)

2) Don’t smoke (Well, double duh! We do know that gas and diesel are flammable, right? That means they are easy to light and burn… so don’t play with matches while refueling either!)

3) Don’t use your cell phone – leave it inside the vehicle or turn it off (Not because it will somehow cause a spark, but because you really don’t need any distractions while you are refueling – like noticing if the filler handle fails to shut off and pours gas all over your shoes and the pavement, for example… and if you are silly enough to do that you are probably silly enough to then try to light a cigarette…)

4) Don’t re-enter your vehicle during fueling. (Well, duh! again… see #3 above… that gas on the ground is expensive!)

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