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During freezing-winter seasons, as soon as I reach my office and get off the warm-clothing; I get an electrostatic discharge whenever I touch a metallic water-fountain in my lab. The shock I get is sometimes so severe that for half-an hour my arm remain numb.

I am curious, whether is it possible that a human be killed from such an electro-static discharge while performing daily chores?

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closed as off-topic by Kyle Kanos, Brandon Enright, Danu, JamalS, Neuneck Oct 6 '14 at 8:38

  • This question does not appear to be about physics within the scope defined in the help center.
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ This question appears to be off-topic because it is about the biological response to an applied electric charge and not physics. Perhaps Biology.SE might be suitable? $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Oct 6 '14 at 2:48
  • $\begingroup$ I am looking for some physicist's response. $\endgroup$ – kaka Oct 6 '14 at 2:51
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    $\begingroup$ Your query is on the fatality of electric shock, this is outside the realm of physics. $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Oct 6 '14 at 2:55
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    $\begingroup$ A typical estimate for the capacitance of the human body is 100-200pF. Electrostatic discharge voltages range from a couple thousand to maybe 15kV. If you calculate the total energy in such a discharge, you end up with maybe 25mJ. That's far too little to kill a human (especially since almost all of the discharge current will flow trough layers of tissue close to the skin), however, it may provoke a panic reaction that could turn deadly under highly unfortunate circumstances e.g. if it happens on the steps of a ladder and the person falls. $\endgroup$ – CuriousOne Oct 6 '14 at 4:58
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    $\begingroup$ This question appears to be off-topic because it is about electrical safety and the biological effects of electric discharge through the human body. $\endgroup$ – Brandon Enright Oct 6 '14 at 5:32
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Your body is a detector of electric current, in what you describe. Static electricity coming from clothes should not have such high current levels. Check with a voltmeter, it is safer . I suspect that even those small screw drivers for checking live wires will light up. There must be a leakage.

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  • $\begingroup$ I probably didn't clear much in my question. The water fountain is not electric at all, and after getting a shock, everything gets normal so is the fountain. However, fountain has a complete metallic body which might/must be earthed. I am sure that I get shock because fountain is very nicely earthed (0.7 $\Omega $). $\endgroup$ – kaka Oct 6 '14 at 5:41
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    $\begingroup$ what you describe is way out of what power a spark from triboelectric effect can deliver,unless you are wearing unusual clothing, Of course there exist triboelectric generators. $\endgroup$ – anna v Oct 6 '14 at 8:51
  • $\begingroup$ triboelectric effect is really worth knowing. I suspect that it may be the possible cause. thanks $\endgroup$ – kaka Oct 8 '14 at 23:10

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