Why Doesn't Static Electricity Kill You?

Static electricity has a high voltage, so why are those electric shocks merely annoying instead of deadly? Ask Science explains

Lee Falin, PhD
3-minute read
Episode #46

Why Doesn't Static Electricity Kill You?

An intrepid listener wrote in with this question about my episode on static electricity:

“I was wondering why the thousands of volts discharged from static electricity is just a painful shock and but not more harmful? I understand the discharge can damage computer electronics buy why doesn’t it harm us also?” – Chris

Well Chris, that’s a great question. Let’s unravel this shocking mystery.

The Law of the Electric Land

There are 3 things people typically consider when thinking about how dangerous electricity is:

  1. Voltage (measured in volts) tells you how much force will be used to push through your body.

  2. Resistance (measured in ohms) tells you how strongly your body will resist those electrons being pushed through it.

  3. Current (measured in amps) tells you how many electrons will flow through you each second.

Back in 1827, a man named Georg Ohm published an early version of an equation that related these 3 things together:

Voltage = Current   x   Resistance


Please note that archive episodes of this podcast may include references to Ask Science. Rights of Albert Einstein are used with permission of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Represented exclusively by Greenlight.

About the Author

Lee Falin, PhD

Dr. Lee Falin earned a B.S. in Computer Science from the University of Illinois, then went on to obtain a Ph.D. in Genetics, Bioinformatics, and Computational Biology from Virginia Tech.