But electrocution risk is not only a function of how or where phone cords are placed around the bed, said Bunke. The kind of charger used may also matter, she said, with cheaper knockoff cords potentially posing a greater risk than an original, branded plug.
Why? “Evidence is mounting that generic chargers are not necessarily guaranteed to go through the same safety and quality checks as the branded versions,” Bunke said.
Still, even brand-name cords can pose problems in certain situations, her team noted.
For example, Bunke and her colleagues also noted another cellphone electrocution case, in which a young man took his Apple iPhone equipment to bed.
In that instance, the plug was in fact an original Apple-brand cord. But he was electrocuted and literally thrown out of his bed, after a chain he was wearing came into contact with the cord.
Do cellphone chargers really use that much electricity?
Bunke and her team stressed that doesn’t matter, pointing out that “even with a low-voltage device, if the current is high, then the electric shock can be severe.”
Bunke’s bottom line? “Do not sleep with your mobile device,” she advised.
“And avoid leaving the charger plugged in when it is not connected to a phone,” Bunke added.
The findings were published recently in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.
Dr. Leigh Vinocur, national spokesperson for the American College of Emergency Physicians, agreed with Bunke’s advice.
“I’m guilty of this,” Vinocur admitted. “I, too, have my iPhone plugged in next to my bed, because it’s my alarm clock. I don’t lay in bed with it. But certainly when I leave the house, I leave the cord plugged in. And truthfully, I’ve also bought cheap non-branded power cords on Amazon.”
“So, this study opens my eyes,” said Vinocur. “As a physician, a consumer, a mother, and as someone who has a pet in the house.”
“And I would say that we all really have to pay more attention to this,” she added, “which means looking for chargers that are certified, and making sure the power cords are not frayed. And not taking our phones into bed with us when we’re asleep, and unplugging them when we leave the house.”