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Lightning poses peril to mobile users: Docs

The apparent risk from mobile phone comes not from the radiation that it emits but the metal components it contains.

india Updated: Jun 23, 2006 10:41 IST

Lightning poses a threat to people who use mobile phones out of doors during a thunderstorm, according to a case study reported in this week's British Medical Journal (BMJ).

A trio of senior London doctors recount the case of a 15-year-old girl who was struck by lightning while using her mobile phone in a large city park during stormy weather.

The girl had an instant heart attack but was revived in time. She lost all memory of the incident, although the lightning strike was witnessed by other people.

A year later, though, the patient had become wheelchair-bound, suffering from physical, cognitive and emotional problems as well as a badly perforated eardrum in the left ear, the side where she had been holding the phone.

The physicians, Swinda Esprit, Prasad Kothari and Ram Dhillon, who work at Northwick Park Hospital in northwest London, say they have found three press reports of people being killed by lightning while using their mobile phones outdoors. These incidents took place in China in 2005, in South Korea in 2004 and in Malaysia in 1999.

The apparent risk from mobile phone comes not from the radiation that it emits but the metal components it contains. As lightning chooses the easiest route to the ground, someone standing up and using the phone (and possibly wet at the same time) may well offer the path of least resistance.

Australia's Lightning Protection Standard says that neither mobile phones nor cordless phones should be used, or even carried, outdoors during a thunderstorm.

On the other hand, US National Weather Service says on its website that both are safe to use "because there is no direct path between you and the lightning.