Thursday, January 05, 2006

How much of a charge can a human body build up from static electricity?

This question is a bit like "How long is a piece of string?" The answer depends on various factors and circumstances. We tend to think in terms of voltage rather than charge, because as the saying goes, "It's volts that jolts" - in other words voltage, rather than charge, causes us to feel a shock. About 3000-4000 Volts on the body will cause us to feel a shock when we touch some object. A shock felt when getting out of the car may be caused by a body voltage of about 10000 V. Body voltages up to 35000 V have been reported, but I see no reason that higher voltages might not be possible in exceptional circumstances. Body voltages up to 10 kV (10000 V) are commonly responsible for the shocks we feel in daily life, and are largely caused by insulating flooring, footwear and furnishings. For more information on this see my article on Static shocks and how to avoid them.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

My neighbour is currently experiencing electostatic shocks of extereme magnitude. He can be standing still outdoors, and the resulting shock he receives is AUDIBLE. We heard him being 'Zapped" while he was in his house. The shocks were about 6-7 seconds apart and 4 in succession.
Haven't tried standing next to him yet, but I want to see if it is a transferable charge.

Any Ideas??

Static Doctor said...

It is hard to tell what is going on in any individual case without investigating with instruments. However some generally useful comments are given in my articles "Static shocks and how to avoid them" and Why static builds up on people" . I hope these help.

impy said...

I was curious to find out how dangerous static shock is to birds.
Example would be if I touch a parrot and get a shock would it be harmful to the bird.
Someone made reference to me once that the shock itself has the potential to act like a defibulator yet I question this because from what I remember its not just the high voltage but the source as well as duration?

Static Doctor said...

I think if you touched your parrot and it suffered a shock it would be more psychologically dangerous for it, than physically dangerous. However I don't know of any research on the effects of shocks to birds.

Yes, high energy shocks are used in defibrillators but these are much more powerfult than the usual electrostatic shocks we would expect to experience in the everyday world.

I occasionally get emails from people who shock their cats or other animals. The main problem I think is that it makes the animal wary of the person!

Steve Fowler said...

We should not become complacent with electrostatic shocks. I have seen emergency room calls for people experiencing high electrostatic shock events. I have seen muscle atrophy, heart rhythm problems, hearing loss, eyesight problems and brain damage. I am investigating a plastics manyufacturing operator at this time in Hamburg, Germany who is in intensive care after a high shock.

So, what can it do to a bird? Depends on how much, how good a contact, to where on the bird and where the bird is perched. In other words, it is Russian Roulette.

Best advice is , get rid of the shocks:

http://www.esdjournal.com/techpapr/sfowler/Static%20House.htm

delia said...

There have been times, not always during or after arguments, when my ex-boyfriend's and my hands touched,we could see and hear sparks coming from our hands. It never happend to me with any other peson. Any idea what that was?

Static Doctor said...

It was certainly just an ordinary static electricity shock! I am just amazed if you have not experienced it with other people from time to time!

Anonymous said...

hi, this situation is getting rediculas. My car, money, dogs fur, our new metal gates , and sometimes brushing past another person, gives me static shocks. Something has to be done....

Anonymous said...

I was walking past a row of moon lights (garden lights) and each one i walked past the bulb would blow up and sparks would fly from it, is there a level that this would stop at or is this a short term thing or is it permanent??

Static Doctor said...

It's hard to see how a light could be damaged by static electricity from someone just walking past. If they touched the light, that might be another matter. Maybe those lights failed due to something other than static electricity.

Nicole said...

Yesterday I was putting some Christmas presents under the tree. i was wearing a house robe that usually generates alot of static. Then my husband got up off of the sofa and touched my head while walking by. It gave off quite a zap! It hurt and surprised me. Would a static shock that seemed to be a strong "zap" (more then normal) hurt my brain at all? I feel like i have a headache after, but it could be from other causes and i might just be paranoid... Has that ever happened before? Should i be worried at all? what signs should i look out for in case damage could have been done?

Static Doctor said...

The shock has surprised you and made you worry, but probably won't have done any lasting harm. If you think you're getting any unusual symptoms as a result, check with your Doctor.

Emma Jorgensen said...

i seem to be having problems with small devices such as phones and DVD players, they seem to stop working or stop charging could this be because i have too much static electricity generating???

Sean Kinsella said...


I recently got an unpleasant shock from my (now binned) coffee machine. it lasted for less than a second and the voltage was given on the plate below, as 240 volts. Was this static electricity and will it have hurt me neurologically speaking?