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Electric shock

Contact with electricity can be lethal, but the level of voltage is not a direct guide to lethality, despite the popularity of such a measure. Physiological effects are determined by voltage, amperage (current) and duration. Either a high voltage and a high current are necessary for lethality or lower voltage and current but extended duration. An example of the first would be a lightning strike and of the second wold be contact with a live mains cable. But even a mains cable is carrying many times a minimum lethal shock.

Electrical discharge from lightning tends to travel over the surface of the body and causes respiratory arrest. From a mains circuit the damage is more likely to be internal, leading to cardiac arrest. With line currents above 2 mA there can be a muscular spasm which causes the affected person to grip and be unable to release from the current source. It is believed that human lethality is most common with AC current at 100-250 volts, lower voltages can fail to overcome resistance while with higher voltages the afflicted's muscular contracts are often severe enough to propel them away (although there will be considerable burn damage). Amperage damage is through tissue heating and interference with nervous control, especially over the heart. Fibrillation[?] can be induced (and removed) by 10 mA, although, oddly, with higher amperages (20 mA and above) contractions in muscles around the heart can actually prevent the heart fibrillating (and beating normally). Tissue heating due to resistance can cause extensive and deep burns. Other issues effecting lethality are frequency, which is an issue in causing cardiac arrest or muscular spasms, and pathway - if the current passes through the chest or head there is a increased chance of death.

So depending on the circumstances, 35 kV can be taken by a human under the right conditions without great harm while 10 V accidently at the right amperage and place can kill. The above information would appear to suggest that the requirements to distribute electrical current to domestic users have resulted in a combination that is quite deadly.

Electric shock is sometimes used as a means of capital punishment, see electric chair. This is widely regarded as inhumane.



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