Cell-phones and lightning don’t mix

The British Medical Journal has published a report related to the dangers of using a cell-phone during a lightning storm:

We report the case of a 15 year old girl who was witnessed being struck by lightning while using her mobile phone in a large park in London during stormy weather. The girl has no recollection of events because she had an asystolic cardiac arrest.

She was successfully resuscitated, but one year later she was a wheelchair user with complex physical, cognitive, and emotional problems, as well as a persistent perforation of the left [eardrum] with associated conductive hearing loss on the side she was holding the mobile phone.

Ouch. According to the article a cell-phone conducts the energy of lightning in such a way that it bypasses the human skin’s natural resistance and leads to greater/internal injuries.

Anyone else curious about the surrounding terrain and how many other cell-phone users there were at the time of the strike? I mean, did her particular phone increase the likelihood of being struck, or does it just increase the damage during a strike? So many cell-phones, so few struck by lightning…

I find it very odd that all the reports and news about this seem to confuse the likelihood of being struck by lightning with the increased likelihood of damage during a strike. Very different risks, which invite different user-awareness programs, let alone technical counter-measures.

I hate to say it but this seems like a good segue to making lightning-safe bluetooth headsets for people who have to work on the phone in stormy conditions (like rescue or utility teams). The opposite of lightning rods? WWBFD (What would Ben Franklin do)?

After all, once the proper risk has been highlighted (whether that be damage during a strike or causing a strike, or both) the cost of avoidance can be factored more easily. Some might be willing to pay a bit more for a lightning proof headset in order to be able to bypass the newly associated/reported risks.

2 thoughts on “Cell-phones and lightning don’t mix”

  1. Doesn’t it seem fundamentally more likely that someone holding an umbrella would get struck by lightning? This just strikes me as more fear-mongering from a media that has realized that anything highlighting the dangers of cell phones generates interest.

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