Mobile phone users warned of lightning strike risk

Fri Jun 23, 2006 1:52 PM BST

LONDON (Reuters) - People should not use mobile phones outdoors during thunderstorms because of the risk of being struck by lightning, doctors said on Friday.

They reported the case of a 15-year-old girl who was using her phone in a park when she was hit during a storm. Although she was revived, she suffered persistent health problems and was using a wheelchair a year after the accident.

"This rare 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 lighting strike injuries," said Swinda Esprit, a doctor at Northwick Park Hospital in England.

Esprit and other doctors at the hospital added in a letter to the British Medical Journal that usually when someone is struck by lightning, the high resistance of the skin conducts the flash over the body in what is known as a flashover.

But if a metal object, such as a phone, is in contact with the skin it disrupts the flashover and increases the odds of internal injuries and death.

The doctors added that three fatal cases of lightning striking people while using mobile phones have been reported in newspapers in China, South Korea and Malaysia.

"The Australian Lightning Protection Standard recommends that metallic objects, including cordless or mobile phones, should not be used (or carried) outdoors during a thunderstorm," Esprit added.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.

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