Laser Danger: Prevent Eye Injury and Temporary Blindness

laser pointerLasers are common in toys and laser pointers, but improper use can result in vision damage or accident-causing temporary blindness. The US Food and Drug Administration regulates lasers, and they classify them according to strength. The stronger they are, the more damage they can do.

The main problem is hand-held laser pointers. Laser pointers are used during lectures to point out details on slideshows or posters. They are more powerful than the Class 1 and Class 2 lasers found in toys.

If a laser is pointed directly at the eye, it can damage the eye and possibly cause vision loss. Injuries from laser pointers are painless, which makes them difficult to notice in young children. The damage can resolve itself over time, but occasionally, the damage is permanent.

Follow these guidelines for safe laser use:

  1. Laser pointers are for adults in academic and business situations. They are not toys. Keep laser pointers away from children. At home, lock them in a drawer, briefcase or cabinet when not in use. Confiscate them from young people.
  2. Do not point a laser at an automobile’s windshield, or at an airplane or helicopter. Some lasers will scatter when they strike the windshield, temporarily blinding the driver. The light can leave a residual image in the eye, blinding the driver or pilot for a time after the pointer has moved on. An accident may result.
  3. When buying a hand-held laser pointer for an adult, do not buy one that emits more than 5mW (milliwatts) of power. If it does not have the power printed on its warning label, do not buy it. Both are illegal and may be dangerous. If you already have a pointer, dispose of it safely if its power is above 5mW.
  4. Never point a laser at any person, pet, vehicle or aircraft. Beware of shiny surfaces and mirrors that may reflect the light.
  5. If an injury by laser light is suspected, visit an eye doctor immediately.
  6. If a toy that contains a laser is broken or the child opens it, confiscate and discard the toy.
  7. Any laser can cause harm if not used properly. Follow manufacturer instructions.

Source: US FDA