There have been perennial debates about the veracity of the claim that showering during a thunderstorm can potentially pose a health risk. This article delves into the science behind the myth, exploring the possibility and examining the potential dangers tied to this habitual question.
Is there a Risk?
The idea of refraining from showering during a thunderstorm stems from the understanding that lightning can, on rare occasions, travel through a house's plumbing system. Lightning, being a powerful electrical discharge, seeks the path of least resistance to the ground. Metal pipes, commonly used for water supply, can provide this path. In theory, if lightning strikes your home or nearby, it could travel through the water in your shower, potentially causing harm.
It's important to remember that the chances of this happening are exceedingly slim. John Jensenius, a lightning safety specialist at the National Weather Service, points out that instances of people being shocked at home while touching water or electronic equipment only make up about 4% of lightning injuries. Nevertheless, although the probability is low, the possibility exists.
What Science Says
A study published in the Journal of Environmental Health revealed that between 1950 and 1990, 98 people were struck by lightning while bathing, showering, or doing dishes. While it's not a huge number compared to other weather-related fatalities, it's a reminder that such events, while rare, can occur.
Precautions to Take
The National Weather Service advises that you should avoid any water-related activity during a thunderstorm. This includes showering, washing your hands, dishes, or any activity that puts you in direct contact with water that's connected to outdoor plumbing. It's also recommended to steer clear of wired devices as lightning can travel through electrical systems, potentially frying your electronics or worse, shocking the user.
Plumbing Materials Matters
The materials used in your home's plumbing may also influence whether showering during a thunderstorm is a bad idea. Older houses with metal pipes are more susceptible to conveying electrical charges. New homes often use PVC pipes, which are poor conductors of electricity, thus reducing the risk. However, this does not entirely eliminate the danger because water can carry impurities that could potentially conduct electricity.
While the odds of being harmed while showering during a thunderstorm are extremely low, the risk isn't negligible. While this aspect of weather precaution isn't a high-profile health concern, it's still sensible to avoid any unnecessary risk, however small it may be. Because when it comes to the vagaries of nature, it's always better to stay safe than sorry.