Raise awareness of environmental health issues in order to better protect our children and future generations.

22 February 2014

Is It Dangerous to Use a Cell Phone While Charging?

This photo collage has been circulated with the stories below.  According
to the New Indian Express, a 10-year-old boy was reportedly injured
 when his cell phone, said to be of  Chinese make, "exploded
 in his hand while charging.
Is it Dangerous to Use a Cell Phone While Charging?
Posted by waffles,
2 February 2014

An online warning states that using a cell phone while it's charging is dangerous due to increased radiation and potential for explosion or electrocution.

Let’s first take a look at the most recent warning regarding the use of cell phones while charging. The text below was posted on Facebook in late January 2014, and had over 100,000 shares in its first week.


Today another boy died because of attending a call while his mobile was still charging. That time he had a sudden vibration to his heart and then his hands got burned.

So please don’t answer calls or call out while charging your cell phone. When the phone’s battery is low to the last bar don’t make a call or answer any incoming calls because the radiation is 1000 times stronger. This can happen to any brand of mobile phones out there.

Please pass this info to all whom you care and don’t forget to share this to your love ones for their own saftey. Like=>

An earlier version of the post had an alternate opening paragraph, which read:

Today another boy died in Mumbai, because of attending a call while his mobile was still charging. That time he had a sudden vibration to his heart and then his hands got burned.
Yet another variation, using the same photos, writes:

My Beloved Plz Pass 2 al ur contacts. Again a boy died in Mumbai, Bcoz of attending a call while his mobile was at charge. That time he had sudden vibration 2 his heart & fingers were burnt. So pls don’t attend calls while charging ur cel. Pls pas this 2 al whom u care. Wen phone’s battery is low to last bar, don’t answer the phone, bcos the radiation is 1000 times stronger.

History: Recent Cell Phone Electrocutions 

There have been a few reports of cell-related deaths and injuries over the past year. Below are the more notable cases.

January 2014: 10-year old in India injured while phone charged

The multiple variations of the narrative above likely reference the real account of a 10-year old boy in the Dewas district in India, who was reportedly injured when his cell phone “exploded” in his hand while charging. As the New Indian Express reported:

A 10-year-old boy from Dewas district was seriously injured when a mobile phone, said to be of Chinese-make, exploded in his hand while charging, police said today.

The incident occurred last night when Arihant was playing games on the handset while charging it at his home at Uday Nagar village, 100 km from here, they said.

Police said Arihant has fractured his fingers and also sustained injuries on his face and in eyes due to the blast.

He was taken to a private hospital in Indore last night.

A doctor treating Arihant said he was out of danger.

“However, blood supply to one of his fingers is stopped. If there is no improvement in the condition of that finger, we might have to amputate it”, he added.

Note that the boy did not die, nor was a low battery suspected. The narratives above, with altered details, appeared about a week after the real incident in India occurred.

November 2013: Thai man dies from alleged electrocution while charging iPhone

AppleInsider reported in November 2013 of a 28-year old Thai man who was reportedly killed while lying shirtless on an iPhone 4s which was charging with a “knockoff third-party” charger. The man’s father found him dead, with scorch marks on his chest. The cause of death was suspected to be electrocution.

July 2013: Woman in China dies while using iPhone 5

23-year old Ma Ailun from Xinjiang, China died when she answered a call on her iPhone 5, which was charging at the time. Apple issued an apology, stating, “We are deeply saddened to learn of this tragic incident and offer our condolences to the Ma family. We will fully investigate and cooperate with authorities in this matter.”

The woman’s family insisted that, unlike the Thai man’s case above, she was using the original charger, purchased at an Apple store. AppleInsider, however, described the woman’s charger as “an unofficial third-party adapter.” Some reports of the incident point out that woman answered the phone just after getting out of the bath, and that overloads and electrical failures are common in Xinjiang. As The Guardian noted, “A current of more than 200mA (0.2A) can be lethal if it passes through the heart. If the charger is not earthed, or if the person taking the call provides a better path for current – say from a damaged wire – then the effect could be lethal. Someone who was wet after a bath might provide just such a pathway for a lethal current.”

Note that other “debunking” sites have said it isn’t clear if this event ever really occurred, but we feel that Apple’s apology, along with reports by AppleInsider and Reuters, should be confirmation enough for most writers.

July 2013: Chinese man allegedly electrocuted by iPhone 4

A week after the incident above, a 30-year old man was left comatose after being “suddenly shocked” while plugging in an iPhone 4.

As with the other incidents listed above, his adapter was described as “counterfeit.”

July 2013: Apple Response

Apple reacted to the two electrocutions in July 2013 with a statement urging customers in China to avoid using counterfeit products, and instructions how to spot real and fake Apple chargers.

2008: Apple 3G power adapter recall

In September 2008, Apple issued a recall for the iPhone 3Gs, stating that rare conditions could cause “risk of electric shock” to those who touched an exposed connection.

The recall was a proactive move by Apple, as no injuries were reported prior to the recall.

Is a Cell’s Radiation 1000 Times Stronger when the Battery is Low?

Another assertion made in the narrative above is that the boy’s phone exploded due to increased radiation caused by a low battery. This was not part of the real report by The New Indian Times, and was apparently added later to the “warning” which circulated on social media.

The assertion that a cell phone emits more radiation when the battery is low, however, is incorrect. It is a weak signal that will prompt your mobile phone to work harder, not a weak battery. A CNN article notes:

A weak signal will also cause your phone to work harder, giving off more radiation. So avoid using your phone in elevators, buildings and rural areas. Research shows your device emits more radiation when transmitting than when receiving.


The story in circulation in 2014 about a boy who died while using his charging cell phone is likely based on a real event in India in January 2014. The boy in the real incident, however, did not die, and his injuries likely occurred due to the Chinese-made cell phone he was using.

In virtually all reported incidents of people being shocked or electrocuted by cell phones plugged into the wall over the past year, a counterfeit or Chinese-made product of questionable quality was the culprit. In the case of the Chinese woman, other contributing factors could have been the fact that the woman was wet along with common overloads in that region.

Finally, none of the recent incidents resulted from increased radiation, as the narrative in circulation claims, nor would a low battery be the cause for increased cell radiation.


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