Monday, June 26, 2006

Silence the cellphone during a storm

Participants in Denver's Avon Breast Cancer Walk got an up-close and personal look at a typical Colorado summer afternoon on Saturday. A wild thunderstorm dumped freezing rain and hail on walkers just settling into their tents and some still out completing the course. While those of us in the medical tent were spared hailstones to heads--they were, instead, blowing in sideways through the flaps--we were in the highest structure in Clement Park, complete with metal scaffolding. The danger to all of a lightning strike was huge.

Many in the tent pulled out their cellphones as the storm picked up strength to send pictures of the mess to those dry at home. A recent report from the British Medical Journal warns that this is a bad strategy. The case cited in the journal describes a 15 year old girl in a London park struck by lightning as she chatted on her phone.

The cellphone pressed to her ear, which was made of electrically conductive materials such as metal and wiring, appears to have acted as a conduit allowing the lightning energy to enter her body, resulting in the significant morbidity and disability she experienced.

The article cites other cellphone strikes in Asia, then recommends to all of us that we hang up and get out of the rain.

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