Laser pointers are very common these days and have found multiple uses, making presentations, car key chains and so on. I still remember, when the laser pointers came into market, people were excited to see these in the hand and used to play with it by pointing it everywhere. The biggest fear about laser pointer was that if it was pointed towards your eye, it could damage the eye. The Food and Drug Administration has put a limit of 5 milliwatts or lower for laser pointers and toys, which should be safe for normal use. But, there are laser pointers available online that exceed these limits and have caused eye injuries.
A case was reported recently in the New England Journal of Medicine, regarding a 15 year old boy in Switzerland who was injured by a laser pointer bought online.
It rarely collects reports of eye-damage incidents like the case in Switzerland, said FDA health promotion officer Dan Hewett, so it’s not clear how often they happen. Similar cases have been reported by the doctors in UK, wherein teen temporarily affected their vision due to exposure by high powered laser.
The thing is FDA has regulated the power on the laser pointers that should not cause instant eye damage, if exposed for short times. But, there are laser pointers available online that far exceed this limit. For instance, the Swiss boy was injured by laser pointer with power 30 times the recommended level!
This is what happened with the Swiss boy:
- He bought the laser pointer online to burn holes in balloons, paper and his sister’s sneakers.
- He injured himself after playing in front of mirror, wherein he exposed his eye to the green laser light several times
- He immediately knew his eye has problems, but did not tell his parents until two weeks
- He could not even count fingers from three feet distance. After treatment at the Lucerne Cantonal Hospital in Switzerland, even after four months, boy had...
some impairment in the eye.
Dr Schmid, who was involved in treating the Swiss boy said that High-power devices like the one the teen bought are advertised as laser pointers and look just like low-powered versions.
Dr. George A. Williams, chair of ophthalmology at the Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine in Royal Oak, Mich said that “I’m stunned that a kid can get access to … this type of power.”
FDA health promotion officer Dan Hewett said that
- It rarely collects reports of eye-damage incidents.
- FDA recommends consumers to make sure laser pointer labels carry a designation of Class IIIa or lower, along with a statement of compliance with Chapter 21 CFR.
- Consumers should look on the label to make sure the power output is no more than 5 milliwatts, or 5 mW.
- Even a laser product that meets those conditions can cause eye damage if a person stares into the beam long enough.
“Just because it says 5 mW and Class IIIa, FDA is not saying you can grab this laser and stare at it,” he said.
I would add that you should be careful in buying a laser pointer online and if you have kids, make them aware of the fact that laser point can damage their eyes. Keep yourself safe from laser pointers.