The Current That Kills humen
A common misconception is that larger voltages are more dangerous than smaller ones. However, this is not quite true. The danger to living things comes not from the potential difference, but rather the current flowing between two points. The reason that people may believe this can be explained by the equation V = IR. Since V is directly proportional to I, an increase in voltage can mean an increase in current, if resistance (R) is kept constant.
The amount of damage done by the electric shock depends not only on the magnitude of the current, but it also on which portions of the body that the electric current is flowing through. The reason for this is that different parts of the body have difference resistances, which can lead to an increase in current, evidenced by the formula V = IR.
An interesting fact to note is that it takes less alternating current (AC) to do the same damage as direct current (DC). AC will cause muscles to contract, and if the current were high enough, one would not be able to let go of whatever is causing the current coursing through the body. The cut-off value for this is known as the "let-go current". For women, it is typically 5 to 7 milliamperes, and for men, typically 7 to 9 milliamperes. This is dependent on the muscle mass of the individual.
In general, current that is fatal to humans ranges from 0.06 A to 0.07 A, depending on the person and the type of current.
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The Fatal Current
Strange as it may seem, most fatal electric shocks happen to people who should know better. Here are some electro-medical facts that should make you think twice before taking that last chance.
It's The Current That Kills
Offhand it would seem that a shock of 10,000 volts would be more deadly than 100 volts. But this is not so! Individuals have been electrocuted by appliances using ordinary house currents of 110 volts and by electrical apparatus in industry using as little as 42 volts direct current. The real measure of shock's intensity lies in the amount of current (amperes) forced though the body, and not the voltage. Any electrical device used on a house wiring circuit can, under certain conditions, transmit a fatal current.
While any amount of current over 10 milliamps (0.01 amp) is capable of producing painful to severe shock, currents between 100 and 200 mA (0.1 to 0.2 amp) are lethal. Currents above 200 milliamps (0.2 amp), while producing severe burns and unconsciousness, do not usually cause death if the victim is given immediate attention. Resuscitation, consisting of artificial respiration, will usually revive the victim.
From a practical viewpoint, after a person is knocked out by an electrical shock it is impossible to tell how much current has passed through the vital organs of his body. Artificial respiration must be applied immediately if breathing has stopped.
The Physiological Effects of Electric Shock
The chart shows the physiological effects of various currents. Note that voltage is not a consideration. Although it takes voltage to make current flow, the amount of shock-current will vary, depending on the body resistance between the points of contact.
As shown in the chart, shock is relatively more severe as the current rises. For currents above 10 milliamps, muscular contractions are so strong that the victim cannot let go of the wire that is shocking him. At values as low as 20 milliamps, breathing becomes labored, finally ceasing completely even at values below 75 milliamps.
As the current approaches 100 milliamps, ventricular fibrillation of the heart occurs - an uncoordinated twitching of the walls of the heart's ventricles which results in death.
Above 200 milliamps, the muscular contractions are so severe that the heart is forcibly clamped during the shock. This clamping protects the heart from going into ventricular fibrillation, and the victim's chances for survival are good.
Danger - Low Voltage
It is common knowledge that victims of high-voltage shock usually respond to artificial respiration more readily that the victims of low-voltage shock. The reason may be the merciful clamping of the heart, owing to the high current densities associated with high voltages. However, lest these details be misinterpreted, the only reasonable conclusion that can be drawn is that 75 volts are just as lethal as 750 volts.
The actual resistance of the body varies depending upon the points of contact and the skin condition (moist or dry). Between the ears, for example, the internal resistance (less the skin resistance) is only 100 ohms, while from hand to foot is closer to 500 ohms. The skin resistance may vary from 1000 ohms for wet skin to over 500,000 ohms for dry skin.
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