The claim “Electrocution requires more than 100 volts to cause death.” has several questions that arise and that could be discussed. Electrocution is the injuring or killing of someone by an electric shock. Volts and amperes are measures of electricity. Electricity is a type of energy that involves the flow of electrons, this flow of electrons is called an electric current (Hartsfield, 2015). The electric current refers to the amount of electricity flowing per second, this is measured in Amperes (Amps) (Hartsfield, 2015). Volts are the unit of electrical potential difference and is the push on electrons. For example: a current is like water and voltage is like a slope (Hartsfield, 2015). The steeper the slope is the faster the water flows down the hill (Hartsfield, 2015). An Ohm is a way of measuring electrical resistance. Electrical resistance limits the amount of current that voltage flows through (Hartsfield, 2015). The higher the resistance of a component, the harder it is for electrons to flow through it and the more energy they lose. Resistors are special components with high resistance designed to lower the current passing through a circuit. A question has been constructed from the claim to thoroughly evaluate whether electrocution requires more than 100 volts to cause death. The research question is “Does the place of electrocution affect whether death occurs?”.
Electrocution was derived from “electro” meaning Electricity and “execution” meaning death (dictionary.com, 2018). Electrocution is exposure to electricity which leads to execution. When electricity passes from any source and into your body, it will come across resistance in the form of your skin, this then leads to severe burns (Sinicki, 2018). From the electric shock that occurs the muscles then begin to contract.
Electricity is everywhere, whether it be at home when you turn on your light or when you look at the lightning in the sky. Electricity starts with atoms. Atoms are made up of 3 subatomic particles. These particles are called: Electrons, Protons and Neutrons. Electrons contain a negative charge, Protons a positive charge and Neutrons a neutral charge. When electrons move from one atom to another an electric current is created (Origin Energy, 2015). An electrical circuit is the flow of electrons from one a voltage or current source. In order for electricity to flow, there needs to be a closed circuit. A circuit is basically a never-ending loop for electrons to flow (Allaboutcircuits, 2018).
Conductors and insulators are an important part of electricity. Conductors have high conductivity and are types of materials that support the flow of electrons. The most popular examples of good conductors would be metals like copper, silver and gold. Insulators have low conductivity and their purpose is to stop the electron flow. Popular insulators may include glass, plastic, air and rubber (Blom, 2018).
When investigating electricity, it is extremely important to grasp the basics of voltage, current and resistance. These are the main three things needed to measure and manipulate electricity. Firstly, voltage is the difference in charge between two points. Secondly, current is the rate at which charge is flowing and lastly, resistance is a material’s job to resist the flow of electrons (Taylor, 2018). Georg Ohm is responsible for describing a unit of resistance that relates to voltage and current. This is now known as the Ohms law. ‘Ohm’s Law states that the current flowing in a circuit is directly proportional to the applied potential difference and inversely proportional to the resistance in the circuit.’ (Electronics-notes, 2018). All the points discussed can be further investigated and backed up with evidence.
Many people believe that it is the voltage that does the most damage when it comes to electrocution, but this is not true. Yes, voltage is needed to create current, yet the fact is that it’s the current that is the real measure of the shock’s intensity pushed through the body. Depending on the person’s body’s resistance between the points of contact, the current will vary (Giovinazzo, 1987). The amount of damage done to a person is not only influenced by the amount of current but also depends on the place at which the current is flowing in the body. An estimate of the human body’s resistance is approximately 300- 1,000 Ohms (Tamara, 2007). The amount of resistance changes because different parts of the body have different amounts of resistance. This resistance results in an increase of current, evident in the formula V=IR (Hsu, 2000).
Within the body bone and fat have a higher resistance whereas, nerves and muscle have a lower resistance. Muscles are fuelled by electricity. If a current of 10mA or higher were to travel through flexor muscles, it would create a prolonged contraction (Hydroquebec, 2018). This then results in the victim not being able to release their grip from the source of current, increasing the severity of the injury. With the electric shock creating sudden contraction, ligaments, muscles and tendons may tear. It is also common for tissue to burn if the current is high enough.
The worst effect electricity can have on your body is when the electric current flows from any source and enters the body and flows through the heart. If a current of 50mA or more passes through the heart, it is possible to cause cardiac arrest (Hydroquebec, 2018). As our heart is a muscle itself, it is also dependant on electricity. Electric impulses are what control the rhythm of out heartbeat. If a current passes through the heart it disturbs the natural rhythm of the heart and this is called ventricular fibrillation (Hydroquebec, 2018).
Therefore, the majority of the body’s resistance lies in the skin. The human body has its own resistors, and this includes skin. Human skin is a resistor for the body however, the resistance depends on internal and external moisture and length and diameter of the person’s body parts. For example: Men have been prone to have lower resistance in comparison to Women because men tend to have thicker arms due to muscle and fat. This can then link onto the fact that the longer and thinner someone’s arm is, the more resistance exists.
Another factor that affects the body’s resistance is if the person is wet or is standing in water at the time of their electrocution as less resistance will exist, making it easier for the current to flow through (Saptarshi, 2015). Water is a very good example of a conductor as it contains many impurities, such as: Salt, calcium and magnesium. Because all these elements are charged, it allows for electricity to flow through (Ashish, 2014). However, this is not the case for pure water as there are no impurities in it therefore, there are only neutral molecules, making it an insulator (Ashish, 2014). Dry skin has approximately 100,000 ohms of resistance. However, the resistance of wet skin has around 1000 ohms or less. Dry skin has a higher resistance due to the thick layer of dead skin cells. Evidently, if the skin is in contact with water, current can easily flow through (Geddes and Fish, 2009).
-Limitations to evidence
The research question “Does the place of electrocution affect whether death occurs?” was a very complicated and complex question to gather information for. A lot of research was done, and many sources were used. While there was no exact answer to “does the place of electrocution affect whether death occurs?” there was still a lot of information that surrounds this topic. There was definitely some data/evidence that could have been used however there were no websites that surrounded the specific topics needed. For instance, it would have been great to find more information on the body, for example: how electricity affects the muscles and tendons and also the difference of resistance in these areas. Other different amounts of resistance within the body, however there was very limited information.
It is recognised that the research question “does the place of electrocution affect whether death occurs” focused mainly on just one aspect of the claim. An aspect about the time of electrocution in the body was not directly considered in this research. Further research could also be conducted to investigate how long current has to be in the body, before electrocution occurs. These aspects would help to further establish the likelihood of 100 volts causing death.
-Evaluation of sources
For the most part many of the sources are reputable, as they come from proper science websites, with scientists writing the reports. However, a few sources have been used from the site “Quora”. This site is a place where anyone can ask a question and someone answers. This site can be seen as unreliable as anyone can answer the question and the information may be incorrect. The reason Quora was used, was as there were no websites that could be found that can back up or contain information that was needed.
Skin wet and dry
What I could do in future
The research question “Does the place of electrocution affect whether death occurs” was created from the claim “Electrocution requires more than 100 volts to cause death”. The research question was then addressed by gathering evidence. The evidence suggests that the place of electrocution does affect the amount of current needed to cause death due to resistance. Although the place of electrocution affects the amount of current, there were also other countless variables that partake in how death occurs by electrocution. It could not be fully proved that the place of electrocution affects whether death occurs.
Electrocution occurs when an electric current passes through a person’s body. The amount of electrocution depends on the Ohms law. Ohms law is the mathematical relationship between electric current, resistance and voltage.