In my house there is 2 wires the black one and the red one, what could happen y for example I touch both wires with my hand. we have 120 V, Pd. somehow we tried to install a lamp there but didn´t work. I have googled it and it says that if i have sweety hands i will get only 12 mA that will hurt me but it won´t be fatal so what could happen?

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    \$\begingroup\$ It is impossible to say, it depends on how well grounded you are, how moist your skin is, individual body characteristics, etc. All you can say is that you might get a harmless shock or you might get a fatal shock. Even 12mA of current is dangerous, it can cause muscle contractions that prevent you from letting go of the wire... and if you misjudge your conductivity, you're not far from the 100mA of current than can be fatal. Turn off the power and test it before touching any wire. \$\endgroup\$ – Johnny Jan 28 '15 at 3:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 The question is "useful" and better asked than not - BUT it is very scary. This stuff can certainly kill you. \$\endgroup\$ – Russell McMahon Jan 28 '15 at 4:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you hold each wire in different hands, you are all-but-guaranteed to die, as the current flows through your chest and stops your heart! \$\endgroup\$ – DoxyLover Jan 28 '15 at 6:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ NO! Don't you do it! Only real men with balls of steel can do it. We use 220V here and I touch it every morning instead of a cup of coffee. :) \$\endgroup\$ – hkBattousai Jan 28 '15 at 8:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ You may get a heart stopped, don't do that. \$\endgroup\$ – Dims Oct 10 '15 at 14:37

In the US or Canada, you will probably find 240 volts between the red and black wires, but 120 volts from either one to the white (neutral) wire.


A 120 Volt or 240 Volt shock can cause serious injury!

  • \$\begingroup\$ 120 V, here at mexico.. but is it correct to suposse 12 mA so on..? \$\endgroup\$ – Rocket Jan 28 '15 at 3:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Rocket: no, that is not correct to assume that. \$\endgroup\$ – whatsisname Jan 28 '15 at 4:33

what could happen if for example I touch both wires with my hand?

Death is a certain possibility.

If you do not know how to check for "liveness" then you also risk creating a fire - or just killing yourself or someone else.

Best is to use a test meter - an AC voltmeter suited to 120 VAC operation.

You COULD use a mains rated lamp with two test probes (wire ends) with 2 INSULATED LEADS - and be aware that you could kill yourself.

If you touch the two test leads on a power source elsewhere and the bulb lights and it does not happen on your target wires they MAY not be live.
One could be live and the other not - this may not light the bulb BUT MAY still KILL YOU.

A theme is developing here :-( :-(.

If the wires were live at one time there may be a blown fuse or a removed fuse or a circuit breaker that is turned off. If so, restoring power to the circuit, may restore power as desired, or just may set the building on fire. And along the way it just may kill you.

Having an electrician or knowledgeable friend have a look for you is a very very good idea.


As stated do not touch AC POWER WIRES WITH YOUR HANDS or any sort of wires if you have to ask. If your lamp doesn't work, measuring the voltage with your body is one of the worst ways to figure out if the voltage is on. A local hardware store can probably instruct you in the equipment you need to detect if they outlet is working or not.

A dramatization of the effects of touching wires can be seen in the video below with some description of how environmental (like shoes) effects can play a role: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TwIvUbOhcKE


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