When There’s Lightning, Turn Off Your Cell Phone

September 9, 2006

images122.jpgWe’re into the rainy season… we get thunderstorms and lightning then we get the flooded streets. While in the traffic because of the congested road, we use the cell phones to pass the time. But you’re in actual danger of being hit by lightning if it strikes.

The June issue of the British Medical Journal reported a case of a  15-year-old girl struck by lightning while using her cell phone in a London park last year. The girl survived, but is now considered disabled suffering from not only physical injury but traumatic emotional problems.  She is presently confined to a wheelchair, has lost some hearing in the ear she was holding the phone to and can’t recall the moment she was hit by lightning because she had cardiac arrest then. 

The journal reports that ” this phenomenon is a public health issue, and education is necessary to highlight the risk of using mobile phones outdoors during stormy weather to prevent future fatal consequences from lightning-strike injuries related to mobile phones.

It is important to note that according to the National Weather Service statistics: around 400 people are struck and approximately 67 are killed each year by lightning.  This number actually is more than deaths caused by hurricanes or tornadoes. What is significant is the life long disability that results after one is hit by lightning.

It is theorized in the report that normally: ” the high resistance of human skin means that if lightning strikes, it is conducted over the skin without entering the body, resulting in a low death-rate phenomenon known as “flashover.” But conductive materials such as liquids or metallic objects — i.e. cell phones — disrupt the flashover and result in internal injury with greater death rates”.

For Our Healthy Practice Tips Series 2: Here are some accepted guidelines in the use of appliances during bad weather:

  • Do not use metallic objects like cordless or mobile phones during a thunderstorm.
  • Don’t use a land-line telephone. Lightning can come through the telephone line and hit you.
  • Avoid electrical appliances such as washing machines or dishwashers or take a shower because lightning can travel through water pipes.

These guidelines are there for us to consider and follow.  Even if the jury is still out on whether mobile phones are really a hazard for use during bad weather is still being refuted by some… arguing that the metal content of mobile phones is so small to be a factor… but rather… being hit by lightning is a matter of being in a wrong place at a wrong time.

For now, it is still prudent that the next time you are stuck in traffic because of the rain… before you answer your mobile phone… Just make sure

Don’t Use Your Phone When Lightning Strikes!  

9 Responses to “When There’s Lightning, Turn Off Your Cell Phone”

  1. Benjie Says:

    Hello Gerry,

    I understand the danger about using a land line since the lightning bolt can enter the wires. But for celphones, I don’t think one incident is enough to make a generalization that it was the celphone that caused the girl to be hit by lightning. Is there any scientific evidence linking the celphone to the lightning hitting the girl?

  2. Doc Gerry Says:

    There are so far three other cases in Malaysia, China and Korea where Mobile phone users were hit by lightning while using their phones. The only scientific basis for now is based on case reports because this is one case of causality that’s diffciult to do and be approved by research ethics review

  3. Eric Baker Says:

    I have been struck by lightning 3 times and i also have metallic compontents in my body i read how metal objects increase problems but one of the times i was also on my cell phone i am wondering if there are any benefits that are known from being struck if you could let me know i would appreciate that

    Thank You

  4. John McFerren Says:

    A cellular telephone is only dangerous to use during a thunderstorm under 3 circumstances:
    1. The Cellular telephone is connected to a power source such as a car or wall outlet.
    2. You are using the cellular telephone outside.
    3. You are using a cellular telephone connected directly (by wire, not wireless) to an amplifier and/or outside antenna.

    A cordless handset is only dangerous if:
    1. You are touching the base unit for example to remove the handset
    2. You are using the handset outside.
    3. The handset is connected by wire to some other source outside.

  5. Is leaving you mobile phone ON during heavy thunder and lightning too a problem?

  6. Abby Says:

    Can u give any scientific explanation why people are hit by lightning while using a mobile phone.

  7. Rashaun Says:

    I was struck by lightning a year ago because of being on my cell…………..I now electrical super powers that is the benefit of being hit by lightning.

  8. Alex Johansson Says:

    There are facts and there are rumors… The paper in the British Medical Journal you are referring to has been rebuffed in the same Journal http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1489209/

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