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Electrocution of the Human Body

Charles Dalziel, GFI Inventor (UC Berkeley) - RF CafeMan being electrocuted: funny picture - RF CafePhysiological effects of current density on the human body are shown in the table below. Contrary to popular belief, it is the current - not the voltage - level which is responsible for effects. According to Ohm's Law, of course, a certain voltage is required to cause the necessary currents to flow. Values show vary depending on the body.

Personally, I have been hit with 480 V while working on a 3-phase industrial motor connection. It didn't feel good.

See article on shock level versus pain level from Discover magazine.

The following table of quantity of electrical current and its effect on men and women is from work done by the inventor of the Ground Fault Interrupter circuit, Charles Dalziel.

Other RF Cafe resources on electrocution: Eliminate Risk of Fatal Electric Shock with the GFI | Mac's Service Shop: Electric Shock | Potential Neutral Conductor Hazards | Electrocution of the Human Body

Direct Current
Alternating Current (mA)
60-Cycles 10,000 Cycles
Men (mA) Women
Men (mA) Women
Men (mA) Women
Slight sensation on hand 1 0.6 0.4 0.3 7 5
Perception threshold, median 5.2 3.5 1.1 0.7 12 8
Shock - not painful and muscular control not lost 9 6 1.8 1.2 17 11
Painful shock - muscular control lost by ½% 62 41 9 6 55 37
Painful shock - let-go threshold, median 76 51 16 10.5 75 50
Painful and severe shock - breathing difficult, muscular control lost by 99½% 90 60 23 15 94 63
Possible ventricular fibrillation
Three-second shocks
Short shocks (T in seconds)
High voltage surges

* Energy in watt-seconds




Table retrieved from the "Deleterious Effects of Electric Shock," by Professor Charles Dalziel, 1961.

Current Level (mA) Effect
1 Threshold of sensation
8 Mild sensation
10 Painful
13 Cannot let go
21 Muscular paralysis
20 Severe shock
38 Breathing labored
42 Breathing upset
70 Extreme breathing difficulties
90 Ventricular fibrillation
100 Death

Above is the original table for this page.



Posted April 26, 2004

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