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Fri, Jul 13, 2007 - Page 10 News List

Experts warn iPod users not to listen to tunes in storms

AP , TRENTON, NEW JERSEY

Listen to an iPod during a storm and you may get more than electrifying tunes.

A Canadian jogger suffered wishbone-shaped chest and neck burns, ruptured eardrums and a broken jaw when lightning traveled through his music player's wires.

Last summer, a Colorado teen ended up with similar injuries when lightning struck nearby as he was listening to his iPod while mowing the lawn.

Emergency physicians report treating others with burns from freak accidents while using personal electronic devices such as beepers, Walkman players and laptops outdoors during storms.

Michael Utley, a former stockbroker from West Yarmouth, Massachusetts, who survived being struck by lightning while golfing, has tracked 13 cases since 2004 of people hit while talking on cellphones. They are described on his lightning safety Web site.

Contrary to urban legends and media reports, electronic devices do not attract lightning the way a tall tree or a lightning rod does.

"It's going to hit where it's going to hit, but once it contacts metal, the metal conducts the electricity," said Mary Ann Cooper of the American College of Emergency Physicians and an ER doctor at University of Illinois Medical Center at Chicago.

When lightning jumps from a nearby object to a person, it often flashes over the skin. But metal in electronic devices -- or metal jewelry or coins -- can cause contact burns and exacerbate the damage.

A spokeswoman for Apple Inc, the maker of iPods, declined to comment. Packaging for iPods and some other music players do include warnings against using them in the rain.

Lightning strikes can occur even if a storm is many miles away, so lightning safety experts have been pushing the slogan "When thunder roars, go indoors," Cooper said.

Jason Bunch, 18, says it was not even raining last July, but there was a storm off in the distance. Lightning struck a nearby tree, shot off and hit him.

Bunch, who was listening to Metallica while mowing the grass at his home in Castle Rock, Colorado, still has mild hearing damage in both ears, despite two reconstructive surgeries.

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