can a brassiere conduct lightning?

I read this news article today. Is the coroner exaggerating, or is he giving us the straight dope? I would think that the amount of wiring in a brassiere would be small enough that it would be negligible.

You can see the full article at

Bras were conductor in British lightning deaths

Note: the link above refers to a news item from 16:45 GMT Wednesday 27 October 1999. I don’t know how long the link will be valid.

J’ai assez vécu pour voir que différence engendre haine.

In a related story, earthquakes give me jock itch…

Back off, man. I’m a scientist.

Always thought one was supposed to take the thing off before burning it…

Livin’ on Tums, Vitamin E and Rogaine

That’s really bizarre. I’m not sure I see how he could tell it was the bras that caused the lightening strike. I would think that if anyone were struck by lightening they would have burns near any piece of metal they were wearing, but that wouldn’t mean that the metal attracted the lightening, would it?

Anyway, it doesn’t seem like this is a significant danger. There are about 8 or 10 inches of wire in a bra–less than in a pair of wire-frame glasses. You know, if this happened in America they would be banning underwire bras and taking Victoria’s Secret to court. :wink:

The coroner said there were burn marks on the women’s chests.

I noticed my link above gets out of date very quickly. If you’re fast enough, you can find the article at

Latest Oddly Enough Headlines from Reuters

I don’t want to post the whole article because it’s copyrighted.

J’ai assez vécu pour voir que différence engendre haine.

First things first: the bassieres definitely did not cause the women to be struck.

As pointed out above, the amount of metal in an underwire bra is very small compared to the size of a human body. In order for the body’s average electrical resistance to be lowered by any significant amount, it’d have to be one hell of a big bra. (How big, you ask? There aren’t that many letters in the alphabet.)

Here’s what really happened. When the woman was struck, the electrical charge travelled through and across her body on the path of least resistance. Since metal has far less resistance than flesh, a lot of current was forced through those wires. This quickly raised the temperature of the metal, and the hot metal then burned the skin. (Some electrical arcing may also have contributed to the burning.)

cher3 is on the money; lightning victims tend to receive burns from any metal object near their skin (watches, jewelery, etc.). This isn’t what causes death, though. The electricity itself damages the nervous system to the point that the heart stops beating.
(Disclaimer: My office firewall won’t let me on to If the news story contradicts something I’ve said, please let me know.)

Laugh hard; it’s a long way to the bank.

Well, the removal of a bra can cause “sparkin’.” Or is it the other way around? :slight_smile:

Auraseer, I think your interpretation is correct. Rereading the article, it seems to me now that it says that the bras were not the reason the women got struck by lightning, but they are the reason the woman died, because of the “concentration” of electricity in the chest area.

J’ai assez vécu pour voir que différence engendre haine.

Nah, I still don’t buy it.

When a current of several million volts wants to pass through your body, it doesn’t matter what you’re wearing; your nervous system is gonna get screwed up. (Okay, maybe it would matter if you were wearing a full-body suit made of heavy-duty wire. But they weren’t.)

Laugh hard; it’s a long way to the bank.

There’s a wonderful book by Gretel Erlich called “A Match to the Heart.” (Sorry, I don’t know how to underline.)

It is an account of her experience of being struck by lightning.

Have you heard about the band leader who was struck by lightning?
He was a good conductor.

The link now goes to a story: Doctors’ group objects to ovarian egg sale on Web

   ASHINGTON, Oct 27  - A Web site offering the ovarian eggs of
   models for sale to infertile couples is offensive and unethical, the American Society

for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), which groups doctors and other fertility experts, said
on Wednesday.

“Cluemobile? You’ve got a pickup…”
OpalCat’s site:
The Teeming Millions Homepage:

It sure looks like Heatherlee’s could! :smiley:

I take great glee in pointing out the obvious. Many zippers are also made of metal.
So, should I remove my Levy’s in a thunderstorm? :slight_smile:

Work like you don’t need the money…
Love like you’ve never been hurt…
Dance like nobody’s watching! …(Paraphrased)

I go with Auraseer pretty much all the way. You might even figure that, if the bra wire took a significant amount of the current traveling through the women’s chest areas, then their chest areas got less current than they would’ve otherwise. I general, I wouldn’t think a coroner would feel qualified to analyze such an issue involving a lightning discharge.

However, shame on you, Seer, for saying this:

Electric current, as you should’ve learned in a high school science class, is measured in amperes, not volts. Prior to a lightening discharge, yes, there is a electrical potential difference of millions of volts between the points of discharge.

Ray (ex-EE)

Okay, you got me on that one. I should know better than to post about physics when I’m in programmer-mode at work.

Auraseer writes:

The full body suit would reduce the amount of current that goes through your body - you might still have heat/burn issues, but you would be less likely to be electrocuted.

For the same reason being in a metal, non-convertible car is a good idea in a lightning storm. The car forms a Faraday Cage around you, keeping lightning (mostly) out.

“Oh oh, those clouds are getting a little dark. I suggest for safety’s sake, you remove your bra while I take off my pants.”

From what I know about lightning, the metal in the bra could have been the conductor, but it could have easilly been the persons leg or a nearby blade of grass that happened to be charged with electricity opposite of the lightning (fact: most lightning strikes go harmlesly and directly into the ground).

Talk of things “attracting lightning” has been somewhat diminished with recent lightning research. Though there are still things which will cause you to be “a target” moreso than others, such as standing under a large tree in a big field (lightning still likes to take the path of least resistance), but it seems the stuff is far more random than we ever thought.

My guess is, sure, in these two woman, it turned out that the wire attracted the lightning. But I don’t think that wire in bras will make a statistical dent on lightning strikes any time soon.

Manhattan: Brilliant comment!

Yer pal,

mangeorge,go ahead and remove your pants in a thunderstorm. Lightning only strikes the tallest object around,so ya got nothing to worry about! :wink: