23 June 2006
Mobile phones and lightning
UK doctors are warning of the danger of using mobile phones during thunderstorms, after the tragic case of a teenager left with severe injuries after she was struck by lightning whilst talking on her phone.
The doctors say that the metal in the phone would direct any lightning strike into the body.
A 15 year old girl was struck by lightning whilst talking on her phone. She has no recollection of the incident but suffered a heart attack and had to be resuscitated. A year later she is in a wheelchair with severe physical handicap, as well as brain damage.
Normally when a person is hit by lightning the high resistance of the human skin causes the charge to flow over the body. This is known as an external flashover. But some of the charge can flow into the body. The higher the flow, the more damage that will be done.
Any conductive material in direct contact with the skin such as metal or liquid objects increase the risk that the current will flow through the body.
Carrying a mobile phone in your pocket during a storm can also increase your chance of being struck by lightning, in the same way that coins in your pocket or wearing a ring can.