iPod Dangerous During Thunderstorm
Ear Buds Conduct Lightning Through Ears, Head
WebMD News Archive
July 12, 2007 -- Next time you're in a thunderstorm, skip the soundtrack on
your personal music player.
The reason isn't aesthetics -- it's safety. Case in point: the 37-year-old,
iPod-wearing Canadian man described in the July 12 issue of The New England
Journal of Medicine.
The man's doctors, Eric J. Heffernan, MB, and colleagues say the man was
jogging during a thunderstorm. A lightning bolt hit a tree that he was passing.
As lightning often does, it jumped from the tree to the man in a phenomenon
called a side flash, throwing the man 8 feet away.
Fortunately for humans, skin has high resistance to electric current. Unless
something interrupts the flow, the lightning is often conducted over the
surface of the body -- a "flashover."
This didn't happen to the Canadian jogger. His iPod didn't draw the
lightning strike. But when the flashover hit, the iPod, resting against the
man's sweaty skin, drew in the powerful electric current.
The man had burns along his chest and neck where his earphone wires lay. The
insides of his ears also were burned -- and then the ear buds conducted the
current into his head.
The man's jaw was broken on either side. His eardrums burst, and the tiny
bones inside his ears were dislocated. One inner ear canal filled with
Doctors were able to set the man's jaw from the inside and repair his
The lesson, as the NEJM headline puts it: "Thunderstorms and
iPods -- Not a Good iDea."
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