Mobile phones could be hazardous to our physical health

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Chinese news site is reporting that a woman, Ma Ailun in northwest China died of an electric shock while talking on her charging iPhone 5 last Thursday.

According to, the deceased’s sister claims she was answering a call while the phone was charging, when she was electrocuted and killed. Police later confirmed she had died of electrocution, but they did not say whether a mobile phone was involved.

Apple, the company behind the best-selling smartphone, released a statement on Sunday saying the company felt “deeply sorry for the unfortunate accident”, and expressed condolences to the victim and her family. They also said they would “thoroughly investigate” the incident.

On Saturday, the victim’s sister wrote on Chinese social media site Sina Weibo that “(she hopes) all of you will refrain from using your mobile devices while charging”.

While the death has been confirmed, the role of the iPhone 5 in the events leading up to it is not yet clear. Experts consulted in the Xinhuanet story said that mobile phones put out a very low charge in the 3-to-5 volt range, and people only feel a jolt at 36 volts.

This isn’t the first time it has been reported that someone has died from electrocution while using a charging phone. Various versions of the story have been surfacing since 2004, ranging from phones exploding to electrocuting people and while there is a grain of truth to the stories – here’s a Gizmodo story on what an exploded phone looks like – the incidents have almost always been the result of cheap phones and chargers and the poor quality of their batteries and components.

However, the victim’s sister claims she purchased the phone from an official Apple store, and was using the charger that came with it. Sounds like there’s a bit more to the story than meets the eye, so hopefully Apple’s own investigations and that of the Chinese authorities will reveal more information in the coming days.

Deon du Plessis

Deon du Plessis

Deon got his first taste of PC gaming at the tender age of 11 when his father bought an 8088 XT, ostensibly to "help him with his homework". Instead, it introduced him to Leisure Suit Larry, King Graham, Sonny Bonds and many more, and Deon has been a PC gamer and hardware enthusiast ever since. He landed his first professional writing gig in 2006 at a prestigious local PC magazine, a very happy happenstance as he got to write for a living about things he loves - tech, PCs, gaming, and everything in between. He's been writing about it all ever since, and loves every minute of it.