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Cell Phone Charging Danger Warning Email

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Email forward warns that answering a cell phone while it is being charged can electrocute the user (Full commentary below.)

cell phone charging


May be possible if equipment is faulty, but the warning highly exaggerates the risk under normal conditions.



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Subject: Don't answer a cell phone while it's being charged

Don't answer a cellphone while it's being charged

Don't 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 through and he attended to it; with the instrument still connected to the mains After a few seconds electricity flowed into the cell phone unrestrained and the person was thrown to the ground with a heavy thud.

His parents rushed into 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. A Cell phone is 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 mains!


Detailed Analysis

Versions of this warning email have now been circulating for several years. The warning may have been originally derived from an August 2004 Indian news report that describes the electrocution death of a man who answered his mobile phone while it was charging. According to the report, 31-year-old K. Viswajith "was electrocuted when he attended a call on the mobile phone that was put for charging."

In 2005, another report identified the victim as a Nigerian man and used very similar wording to the example quoted above.

While the original report of Mr. Viswajith's death is probably true, details about the incident are quite vague, and I could find no subsequent reports that confirm the actual cause of death. Even if the charging cell phone was the cause of death, the incident does not mean that using a mobile phone while it is charging always represents a significant risk of electrocution. This is clearly untrue. Of course, any device that is connected to mains power is potentially unsafe if the device is faulty or is used inappropriately.

If an inherent risk of electrocution were present during normal battery charging, mobile phone manufacturers would ensure that customers were aware of it. They would not expose themselves to multi-million dollar legal actions by neglecting to make users aware of this potential risk. There would also be well-publicized warnings from government authorities and various consumer groups. Moreover, the media would certainly not remain silent on the issue.

When describing the incident, the message states that "after a few seconds electricity flowed into the cell phone unrestrained" and thus electrocuted the user. Obviously, this is not what is meant to happen, and would only occur if the charging and battery system were not working as intended. An article about battery charger cubes on explains how such cubes transform normal household AC current down to a low voltage DC current. Thus, if the charger is working correctly, no high voltage charge should ever reach a person using the device.

Notably, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission does not identify using a cell phone while it is being charged as an unsafe practice in its article about Cell Phone Battery Safety.

This warning may also be fuelled by numerous incidences of exploding cell phones. There have been a number of well-documented reports about mobile phone batteries exploding and these explosions have injured some people. In late 2007, a version of the warning began circulating that contained the following photographs of an exploded cell phone on a bed and the injury apparently caused to the phone user:
Exploded cell phone on bed  Exploded cell phone on bed 2

Hand injured by exploding cell phone  Hand injured by exploding cell phone
While the images are certainly compelling, they are not related to the supposed incident described in the warning message, which circulated for years before the photographs were attached. Although the victim was apparently burned on the hand by the exploding cell phone, there is no suggestion that he was electrocuted as described in the message. It seems that someone has attempted to add credibility to the warning message by tacking on photographs of an unrelated cell phone explosion incident.

In the majority of cases, faulty, counterfeit or damaged batteries cause such explosions. It should be noted that these battery explosions do not only happen while the phone is being charged. Phones have exploded while in the pockets of users or while being used in the normal way, not just while they were plugged into chargers.

Thus, the information in the email could be considered true only to the extent that there is potential for mishap whenever an electrically connected device is used. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that a compatible and correctly connected, non-faulty phone charger is as inherently dangerous as is implied in this email. Many cell phone users regularly make or receive calls while the phone is being charged. With hundreds of millions of cell phones being used constantly around the world, any inherent danger of electrocution would have long since been discovered and publicized.

Last updated: July 3, 2015
First published: September 2005
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