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Injury from lightning strike while using mobile phone

BMJ 2006; 332 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.332.7556.1513-b (Published 22 June 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:1513

Rapid Response:

Mobile phone letter may increase lightning casualties worldwide

The mobile phone and lightning letter you published recently may
cause an increase in lightning casualties worldwide due to
misinterpretations of the contents by various media and resders. It is
important that BMJ withdraws this letter with immediate effect since it
has a negative effect on the global public.

It is an accepted scientific fact that no object, metal or non-metal,
can attract lightning. Furthermore, lightning strikes people even when
they do not carry any significant metal objects on them, such as football
and rugby players on the field.

I have read and can confirm that the Australian lightning protection
standard made no mention about taking mobile and cordless phones outdoors
during a thunderstorm. I believe the authors of the letter had got this
information through hearsay rather than having read it themselves.

Victims are normally outdoors when they were struck by lightning. If
the authors were concerned about the use of the mobile phones, then they
should also be concerned about the dozens of motorcyclists who were
wearing metal helmets when they were struck by lightning. Should these
motorcyclist discard their helmets when riding in a thunderstorm or should
they rather seek shelter?

As a result of your letter, one African newspaper (www.iol.co.za)
already recommended that the public leave their mobile phones at home when
they go outdoors during a thunderstorm!? I have no doubts that this kind
of bad advice may cause more outdoor lightning fatalities in that country.
Similar misinformation may also occur in other countries and that will
expose more people to the dangers of lightning strikes outdoors.

The proper lightning safety advice is for everyone, irrespective of
whatever metallic items they had on them, to seek shelter in a substantial
building or in an all metal vehicle promptly when a thunderstorm is
imminent. This kind of sound advice had been repeatedly given by all
safety authorities for the past few decades.

Z. A. Hartono
Contact: hartono@pc.jaring.my

For more information about the writer, enter "hartono" and "lightning
protection" in Google.

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

27 June 2006
Zainal Abidin Hartono
Lightning protection consultant
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia