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Rumor: Don't Use Cell Phone While It's Charging!

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Netlore Archive: Viral alert claims people have been killed by electrocution or explosion when they answered a cell phone that was plugged in to recharge the battery.

Description: Viral rumor
Circulating since: Aug. 2004
Status: Partly true / Overblown (see details below)

Example #1:
As shared on Facebook, June 17, 2014:

Don't answer mobile phone while charging


Example #2:
Email contributed by Lori M., Sep. 14, 2005:

Subject: Cell phone charging

VERY IMPORTANT..PLEASE READ

Never, ever answer a cell phone while it is being CHARGED!!

A few days ago, a person was recharging his cell phone at home.

Just at that time a call came and he answered it with the instrument still connected to the outlet.

After a few seconds electricity flowed into the cell phone unrestrained and the young man was thrown to the ground with a heavy thud.

His parents rushed to the room only to find him unconscious, with a weak heartbeat and burnt fingers.

He was rushed to the nearby hospital, but was pronounced dead on arrival.

Cell phones are a very useful modern invention.

However, we must be aware that it can also be an instrument of death.

Never use the cell phone while it is hooked to the electrical outlet!


Example #3:
Email contributed by Raja, Aug. 22, 2005:

Subject: Don't use your cell phone while charging

Dear All,
I send this message to make you aware of the danger potential of the commonly used cellular phone. A few days ago, a close relative of mine was recharging his cellphone at home. Just at that time a call came and he attended to that call with the instrument still connected to the mains.

After a few seconds electricity flowed into the cellphone unrestrained and the young man was thrown to the ground with a heavy thud. His parents rushed to the room only to find him unconscious, with weak heartbeats and burnt fingers. He was rushed to the nearby hospital, but was pronounced dead on arrival. Cellphone is a very useful modern invention. However, we must be aware that it can also be an instrument of death.

Never use the cellphone while it is hooked to the mains!

This is my humble plea.

Sincerely,

Dr. D. Suresh Kumar R&D


July 2013 update: We have very few details at this point, but it has been announced that Apple Inc. is investigating the death of a woman allegedly killed by an electric shock when she answered her iPhone while it was charging.

More info:
   • Apple iPhone Electrocution: Ma Ailun Dies After Reported Shock from iPhone
   • Apple to Probe Smart Phone Charging Death Mystery


Analysis: I've rated this 2004 warning and subsequent variants "overblown" because they stemmed from a single news report about an Indian man who was allegedly fatally electrocuted while answering a cell phone that was plugged in for charging.

Assuming the report was accurate, it's fair to conclude that either the phone or the charger was defective, given that 1) I could find no other reports of people being electrocuted while using a charging cell phone, 2) under normal circumstances the current flowing into a charging cell phone ought not to be strong enough to kill anyone, and 3) neither manufacturers nor consumer agencies warn customers against using mobile phones while they are being charged.

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Under the circumstances, therefore, it would seem excessive to label the device "an instrument of death."

Which is not to say no one has ever been injured by a cell phone. Over the past dozen or more years there have been numerous reports of cell phones catching fire or "exploding," causing injury to their owners. Nearly all of these incidents were blamed on the use of unauthorized and/or faulty batteries.

Safety Precautions

To prevent such mishaps, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has recommended safety precautions which include the following:

  • Don't use incompatible/unauthorized cell phone batteries and chargers.
  • Don't tamper with the battery or allow it to be punctured, crushed, or come into contact with metal objects outside the phone.
  • Avoid damaging the phone by dropping it, keeping it where it can become overheated, or allowing it to get wet.
  • Follow manufacturers' instructions for battery usage, storage, and recharging.

Sources and further info on cell phone safety:

Man Electrocuted While Using Cell Phone
New Indian Express, 10 August 2004 (via blog posting)

Risk of Cell Phone Explosions Growing
ConsumerAffairs.com, 26 September 2004

Teen Burned When Cell Phone Catches Fire
ConsumerAffairs.com, 5 July 2004

Feds Warn of Cell Phone Battery Hazards
ConsumerAffairs.com, 15 May 2005

Last updated: 06/17/14

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