Electrify Thyself: iPods and Thunderstorms

I remember when cellular phones first came out, talk spread that using it can give you cancer. Something about the signals, I think. I haven’t heard anything else since then so the info must have been unfounded and was just one of those things: a rumor.

Recently, warnings about the use of iPods, particularly during thunderstorms, had been circulating. In rainy Manila, they didn’t seem to be taken seriously judging by the many peeps still using their iPods despite lightning and heavy downpours. This news article, however, proves that using these handy music gadgets during thunderstorms really is a recipe for disaster.

In Vancouver, a 37-year-old guy was out enjoying his run while listening to some tunes. Unfortunately, he did this during a thunderstorm. Instead of fuelling him with music during his run, his iPod caused him permanent deafness after he was thrown 8 ft after an adjacent tree was struck by lightning.

In Colorado, A 17-year-old guy was being a good kid, mowing the front lawn of his home while listening to Metallica rock on his iPod. It wasn’t raining that day. In fact, it was a good day for mowing lawns. But there was a storm off in the distance which means lightning strikes can still occur. Again, a nearby tree was the culprit: it hit him after it was struck by lightning.

Well, you may argue, trees do get struck by lightning. Their iPods may not have anything to do with it. Not exactly. Although there is no hard fact that iPods can attract lightning strikes, both victims’ injuries prove that iPods can cause second-degree burns, muscular damages, broken bones and deafness.

Lightning directly striking people are rare. Usually, it jumps from an object (like a tree or signpost) to a person who happens to be nearby. This phenomenon is called side flash, and often people get thrown to a distance leading to further injury. But, because of the high resistance of our skin, flashover often occurs, an effect where lightning is conducted over the outside of the body. However, sweat and the metallic material from your iPod can disrupt the flashover and direct the current straight to your head.


It may look it but this poor kid’s injuries are not just external. The burn on his ear and jawline is just part of it. The current caused sudden heating and expanding of air inside his ear which led to increased pressure which, in turn, ruptured his eardrums. It also dislocated tiny bones that are essential in transmitting soundwaves. As if permanent deafness is not enough, the current travelling through his iPod player’s wires also caused nasty burns, lining up the side of his torso eventhough the cord was outside of this shirt. His hip also suffered second-degree burns where the iPod had been in a pocket.

I couldn’t find a photo of the runner from Vancouver, but the news reported that he suffered worse injuries. Aside from permanent deafness, the current running through the cord of his headphones caused his jaw to break in four places.

Alarming, isn’t it? But this article isn’t meant to scare you. It’s meant to make you aware of the risks of using your beloved iPod (or any MP3, for that matter). So, what to do.

1. Never use your iPod during a thunderstorm.

2. If the rain’s pouring down heavily but you don’t see any lightning or hear thunder, err on the side of caution and switch your iPod off.

3. Don’t forget: lightning strikes can occur even if a storm is miles away. Dark clouds in the distance can tell you if there’s a storm further away. Again, better be safe than sorry: switch your iPod off.

4. “When thunder roars, go indoors”. A common denominator of iPod-lightning accidents occur outdoors. If you can’t live without your tunes then stay indoors during the thunderstorm and listen to them to your heart’s content.

5. Lastly, inform people of the hazards of using iPods during thunderstorms. Your warning can save them from permanent scarring, lifelong injuries and a future without music due to deafness.

Be wise. Be safe.

My references:
http://www.azstarnet.com/news/191407 (photos)
http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/357/2/198
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lightning
This article was written based on research and smarts. Plagiarism is for stupid people.

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5 thoughts on “Electrify Thyself: iPods and Thunderstorms

  1. elementaryteacher says:

    As a teacher, I really like your comment at the end of this article. I’m going to add it to my list of sayings that I teach my students while we practice cursive writing. I never heard this one before and it’s great (Plagiarism is for stupid people!).

    This article and picture of the i-pod injury is frightening. Interesting that you say MP3 players are risky, too. I will be sure to tell everyone I know. Thanks so much for getting the word out on this important subject!

    Eileen
    Dedicated Elemantary Teacher Overseas
    elementaryteacher.wordpresss.com

    I guess I got used to dealing with HS students. They’re always tempted to copy things from the internet because it’s so convenient. Re: iPods and MP3s, I think all gadgets are risky to use during thunderstorms. It is quite scary and People should be a bit more careful. Thanks for commenting, Eileen. 🙂

  2. ET says:

    I was hit by lightning when I was about 12 or 13. I was on the phone during a thunderstorm. It hit the house, raced through the phone line and knocked me across the kitchen about 10 feet or so. I was unconscious for I don’t know how long. Luckily, when I woke up I was fine. Well, we think I am at least. There still has not been a lot of research into the after effects of lightning on the body and how long it can take to show up. I am 40 and dealing with a lot of physical ailments.

    Oh no! I’m sorry to hear about your physical ailments and, you’re right, we still don’t know the extent of the effects of lightning on our body. I wish you good health. I really do. This iPod entry inspired a discussion in class about the truth in stories about phone lines and lightning. I hope you don’t mind if I share it with my students so they’ll know it can happen.

  3. ET says:

    Feel free too. We really didn’t know the extent of it until about three days later when my older brother found a 3″ diameter hole in the roof!

  4. elementaryteacher says:

    ET, I was looking for a book on my bookshelf that I thought you would like to read. I can’t find it just this moment, but let me know if you are interested and I will try to look more. It’s about a near death experience of a man who also was hit by lightning while talking on the phone, but as I recall, it was months before he came out of a coma. The nails on his shoes got fused to the floor, and a lot of scary stuff. But the book was really interesting. Is this something that would interest you for me to search further?

    Eileen

  5. Rajaprabhu says:

    very good information

    Thank you. 🙂

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