During the weekend, a 19-year old was reported to be found dead while sleeping with his phone while it was being charged by a power bank. Unlike other cases of electrocution from a direct charger, many were surprised that a power bank could possibly be the cause of death.
With a typical power bank pushing 5V 2A, it is definitely safer than a wall socket charger and most people believe it isn’t enough to kill anyone. Unfortunately, for some power banks, it could be more dangerous than you think.
In a follow-up report, NST has reached out to University Teknologi Malaysia Professor, Dr. Jasrul Jamani Jamian from the Electrical Engineering Faculty and according to him, a surge caused from a power bank is capable of causing a person’s heart to stop.
Although the voltage capacity on a powerbank is low, he said that a short circuit from a 12-volt source can produce a high current which could be fatal. While it is normal for power banks to output 2.1 ampere, a short circuit could exceed 100 ampere. He added that 0.5 amperes of electrical direct current to the heart is enough to kill a person. This thermal runaway can happen in a very short time and it could cause skin burns when in contact with the body.
In the case of the 19-year old teen, this could be a possible cause but only if there was an electric current caused by a short circuit flowing to his heart. The professor also mentions that it is unlikely that earphones could transmit electricity to the body. When he was found motionless, he was reported to have earphones on that were connected to a phone while it was being hooked up to a power bank.
The State Criminal Investigation Department chief Assistant Commissioner, Kamaluddin Kassim said that they are waiting for results from the Chemistry Department before they can determine the actual cause of death. Foul play had been ruled out and it could be due to electrocution or cardiac arrest.
The UTM professor also discourages people from putting their phones and power banks close to them while charging overnight. This is to avoid possible injury if there’s a short circuit.
If you’re getting a power bank, ensure that it comes with additional short-circuit protection for greater peace of mind. Most reputable brands have included multiple layers of circuit protection that prevent overcharging and output overcurrent. Also, beware of cheap knockoffs and we strongly recommend buying power bank, chargers and cables from a reputable source.
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