Electric shock from cellphone 'unlikely': Experts

Posed photo of an iPhone showing the messages in display. Concerns have been raised after a 23-year-old flight attendant in China reportedly died last Thursday from an electric shock when answering her iPhone 5 as it was being charged. -- MYPAPER FIL
Posed photo of an iPhone showing the messages in display. Concerns have been raised after a 23-year-old flight attendant in China reportedly died last Thursday from an electric shock when answering her iPhone 5 as it was being charged. -- MYPAPER FILE PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

But it is possible if charger is faulty, experts say after reported China case

How safe is it to use a handphone when it is charging?

Concerns have been raised after a 23-year-old flight attendant in China reportedly died last Thursday from an electric shock when answering her iPhone 5 as it was being charged.

She had also reportedly just stepped out of the bath when she answered the call.

California-based Apple, which makes the popular iPhone series of mobile phones, has said it is helping the Chinese authorities to investigate the matter.

Local experts said that using a phone by itself poses little danger of electrocution.

"Electric shock from a stand- alone smartphone is not likely since the voltage and current levels are all very low," said Professor Yeo Tat Soon, a director at the Temasek Defence Systems Institute.

But when the phone is connected to the wall outlet for charging, it works like any other household appliance, such as electric kettles.

If there is a fault in the wiring or the charger being used, for instance, then electrocution is possible, Prof Yeo explained.

"If the phone is charging, then it is a different story. The phone is actually connected to the main electric supply via the charger," he said.

"If the charger or phone has a leakage or short circuit, then the situation is not unlike a person touching any faulty appliance."

Using a wet phone when there is an electrical leak can increase the chances of a shock, he added.

The Nanyang Technological University's (NTU) division head of circuits and systems See Kye Yak pointed out: "There is a possibility of an electric shock from the charger, as it is powered by 230 volts of alternating current when connected to the home or office power outlet."

This is why using an approved charger with safety marks is crucial, experts said.

A report by the South China Morning Post yesterday claimed that the victim Ma Ailun may have been using an unauthorised phone charger.

The chances of a fatal electrocution from using a mobile device are slim "under normal use and circumstances", said senior scientist Choo Fook Hoong, of the NTU Energy Research Institute.

Last October, Spring Singapore banned an unregistered "JinShunli Multifunctional Pot" because its plug did not fit main sockets in Singapore and was deemed a fire and electrical hazard.

rmytan@sph.com.sg