Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Topping Off and Benzine Fumes

In the post below I mused that there could be health risks for gas pumpers who are, in my experience, usually teenagers or young adults. Well, the AP reported a couple of days ago on Lane County health officials recommendation against the practice of "topping off."

From the news article (found on the Oregonian's web site) :

The most serious risk is to children and gas-station attendants, a health official said.

Benzene gets into the air when vehicles run or when gas tanks are "topped off" that is, filled past the automatic shut-off point, the county said.

Though no evidence of the health effects is given, and thus no evaluation of the degree to which this is a serious health problem can be made, it seems a pretty strong argument against the prohibition on self-service gas. Benzine is a known carcinogen.


Jeff Alworth said...

While this issue is at base not an economic or even public policy one (it's a cultural sacred cow), I'm pleased to see that I now have a data point on which to hang my hat.

No self-serve gas!

Peter said...

What if rather than merely spreading the health effects around to everyone every time they pump their own gas, we did something radical like institute safe workplace practices, specifically respirators for pump attendants?

In one case, we can use the argument "pumping gas may be hazardous, so no one person should do it for a living, instead everyone should expose themselves to the risk a bit" as an argument against a policy, or we can simply solve the problem and make it safe, policy of who pumps gas regardless.

One attitude that routinely bothers me about business is the tendency to equate widely diluting costs with fixing problems.