2020 Annals of Emergency Medicine Documents Cases Caused by Phone Chargers

In January of this year, the American College of Emergency Physicians published a study on cases in the Emergency Room that were the result of phone charger mishaps. The report stated “[m]any children and adolescents have access to portable electronic devices. Although not always the case, these devices are often charged at nighttime, especially while being used in bed. There are increasing media reports of electric current injury from the portable electronic devices’ charging cables, particularly with equipment that is available for a lower cost from generic manufacturers. A 19-year-old woman presented to the pediatric emergency department after a burn from her generic iPhone charger.” This report summary goes on to explain that “[s]everal companies have investigated the difference in quality and safety of generic versus Apple-brand chargers and have found that the majority of the generic chargers fail basic safety testing, making them a higher risk for electrical injury…”

The main case discussed in this study involved an Apple charger, though the authors state “…any device that uses a USB charger could cause this type of injury, including Android products, tablets, small laptops, watches, and even certain fans and book lights”.

Low Voltage Does Not Mean Low Danger

Often when discussing the possibility of electric shock from chargers, the response we, at Geddy’s Mom, receive is “but it’s only 5 volts, that’s nothing more than a tickle”. While this might be accurate, an innocent 5 volt charger might also let loose up to 120 volts if not properly constructed. In fact, current (amperage) is the deterministic factor when discussing electric shock, and as you will see, even a low-voltage device can cause electric shock if the quality of the unit is not to standard or if a quality unit malfunctions, or any other reasonable or unreasonable factor presents itself. But our question to parents is: even with low amperage, is it ok for your child to experience the slight shock that one might feel if they touch a battery to their tongue? Is it really worth playing the odds when your child is placing a charger lead in his/her mouth? Though rare, the possibility is real, and that reality is life threatening or life changing.

Doctors present evidence in this study that “patients should be educated to not sleep with their telephone charging in bed or leave a charger plugged in without its being attached to a telephone. The same is true in regard to tablets and other mobile devices.”

As this study explains, the safety tests on phone chargers determine whether there is sufficient division (insulation) between the parts holding the charge, and the parts that a user can come in contact with (the connector lead – the end of the wire that plugs in to the electrical unit in need of charging). If there is not enough separation between these two parts, there is a greater risk of electric shock.

Other Studies on the Dangers of Low-Voltage Chargers

Here is the summary of an independent safety test out of the U.K.: “In a study conducted by Electrical Safety First in the United Kingdom, Apple provided 64 generic chargers for safety testing. Fifty-eight percent of these generic chargers failed the electric strength test, indicating a breakdown of the insulation barrier. This has the potential to increase the USB output voltage from a normal 5 V to 240 V”. Not the small battery twinge that is scoffed at!

In a second study out of Canada, this paper goes on to report, “400 generic iPhone chargers underwent product certification testing to identify potential safety risks related to electrical shock. Twenty-two samples were immediately damaged during the process of energizing or during the touch current test, with 12 samples having a very high leakage current with a capacity for electrocution. In regard to the electric strength test, only 3 of the 400 samples passed, which corresponds to a 99% failure rate.”


Contact us today to learn more about how you can protect your child from electrical shocks.

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