Silicon, Circuits, and the Digital Revolution
This is presented as a public service. Please inform me if you find any errors...
(Apologies -- source of some information lost years ago!)
CURRENT KILLS (not
|Current effects on human body, current through chest
||tingling or imperceptible
||painful, cannot let go
||breathing very difficult
||death due to fibrillation
||no fibrillation, but severe burning, no breathing
|Also please see Electrical
Hazards from the MIT
Effects of different current levels through human body
- Current passing through victim is determined by resistance.
- Dry skin resistance is typically ~500,000 ohms.
- Wet skin resistance falls to ~1000 ohms.
- Internal resistance of body is only 100 to 500 ohms.
- Most household electrical injuries occur in the bathroom as a consequence.
- Our skin, when dry, normally protects us from electrocution if we make inadvertent
contact with 115V household voltages. Not so when wet...
(Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters) are essential
in the kitchen and bathroom
Fibrillation and resuscitation
- Fibrillation is the fine, rapid, erratic, movements that replace the
normal contraction, as seen at left, of the vetricular muscle of the
- Fibrillation can be stopped by application of another controlled
electrical shock, known as defibrillation, often seen in movies and
- A stopped heart can often be resuscitated with CPR techniques (cardiopulmonary
resuscitation), but seldom a fibrillating heart.
Dielectric breakdown and sparking
- Air suffers dielectric breakdown at ~3,000,000 volt per meter.
-- Demonstration of Tesla coil
- 115 V source (wall socket) will not "reach" for you with a spark, but
a 50,000 V power line will spark over before you actually contact (touch)
- Contacting voltages higher that ~230 V often results in current puncturing
skin, compromising the protection offered by its dry resistance.
- Sometime a person contacts a wire that has sufficient current to contract
hand muscles onto wire. The resulting current through the body may not be
lethal initially, but skin resistance may drop with time, under these conditions,
until a lethal current level is achieved. Remove person as soon as possible
without endangering self!
Comments, suggestions, or requests to email@example.com.
Last updated April 6, 2000.
© George Watson, Univ. of Delaware, 2000.