Thursday, 12 Jul, 2007 Offbeat

A Jogger Wearing iPod Struck by Lightning


A man wearing his iPod during a thunderstorm was hurled eight feet into the air when lightning hit a tree close by. The 37-year-old Canadian jogger was taken to a Vancouver hospital with burned parts of body, blown-out eardrums and fracture of a lower jaw. The burns covering the man's chest, neck and ear coincided with the positions of his iPod earphones he was wearing at the moment of the lightning strike.

As for the iPod, it was strapped to the jogger's chest, the area of the body that most suffered from burns. As specialists concluded, the electrical charge of the lightning passed along the earplugs that conducted it into and through the man's head. The electric current caused the muscle contraction that resulted in all the fractures in his lower jaw. The survived man is presently treated by the doctors. The jogger says he will not go jogging in a thunderstorm again, especially wearing any earplugs.

This incident was preceded by the similar situation in June 2006 - a 15-year-old girl in London was struck by lightning when she was talking on her cell phone, having suffered physical, auditory and mental disabilities. According to the doctors, the majority of the girl's injuries were close to the metal phone.

As mentioned by another expert, portable devices, including iPods and cell phones, are sometimes not harmful but helpful when lightning strikes. Martin Uman, director of the Lightning Research Center at the Florida University, says that wearing such a device does not increase one's chances of getting struck by lightning. The expert mentioned that half of those who are struck by lightning will anyway suffer eardrum damage, even if they are not wearing any device.

Metal sometimes conducts electricity into one's body, but in other cases it does the opposite. While our skin represents a natural electricity-repellant, if someone has metal covering the outside areas of one's body, it increases the risk of lightning flowing on the outside of the body, rather than the inside. As a matter of fact, an effect produced by a lightning strike on one's body is difficult to be predicted.

There even was a case when a man struck by lightning was carrying his umbrella which probably saved his life. The lightning went down the umbrella and went off his elbow into the hip. It means the lightning burned the bottom of his body and didn't harm the top half. However, the expert from Florida admitted that it's better to avoid leaving ear buds in one's ears during a thunderstorm, as in this case the ear buds imply metal wires in one's ears.

According to the report of the National Lightning Safety Institute, lightning is the second weather source of deaths in the US. Four hundred Americans are annually struck, and about 67 are killed by lightning - the death rate is higher than those caused by tornadoes or hurricanes. About three-quarter of people who survive after a lightning strike are left with severe disabilities.

The experts advise to stay inside during a thunderstorm. It is better not to take a shower, wash dishes, use phones or electrical devices, as electricity can pass through plumbing and wiring. If a person can't get inside a house, he should avoid taking cover under a tree - humans are better electricity conductors than trees. It is better to get into a car and roll up the windows.

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