Lasers / Pointers
Warning, Lasers are meant for adults and for educational purposes or presentations only.
The use of laser pointers has become widespread. The pointers are useful tools for educators in the classroom and at conventions and meetings. However, due to the low cost and ubiquitous supply, these pointers are now being purchased and used by the general public, including children, and used in ways not intended by the manufacturers. As a result, serious concerns about the hazards of laser pointers have surfaced.
While the majority of the laser pointers contain low to moderately powered diode lasers, more powerful lasers can be found on the market, usually imported from other countries. These pointers present a significant potential for eye injury and are often not properly labeled according to FDA regulations.
There are currently no restrictions for purchasing laser pointers in the United States. The FDA hasissued a warning for laser pointers, urging that the pointers be used as intended, not as toys, and not by children unless under adult supervision.
The hazards of laser pointers are limited to the eye. Although with most visible lasers, the largest concern is potential damage to the retina, most laser pointers are not likely to cause permanent retinal damage.
The most likely effects from exposure to viewing the beam from a laser pointer are afterimage, flashblindness and glare. Flashblindness is temporary vision impairment after viewing a bright light. This is similar to looking directly at a flashbulb when having a picture taken. The impairment may last several minutes.
Afterimage is the perception of spots in the field of vision. This can be distracting and annoying, and may last several minutes, although there have been reports of afterimages lasting several days.
Glare is a reduction or complete loss of visibility in the central field of vision while being exposed to the direct or scattered beam. This is similar to viewing oncoming headlights on a dark night. Once the beam is out of the field of vision, the glare ceases. While this does not pose a hazard to the eye, it can cause serious distraction and outrage. Glare can be exacerbated when the beam is reflected from a mirror-like surface.
Laser pointers are effective tools when used properly. The following considerations should be observed when using laser pointers:
Never look directly into the laser beam.
Never point a laser beam at a person.
Do not aim the laser at reflective surfaces.
Never view a laser pointer using an optical instrument, such as binocular or a microscope.
Do not allow children to use laser pointers unless under the supervision of an adult.
Use only laser pointers meeting the following criteria
Labeled with FDA certification stating "DANGER: Laser Radiation" for Class 3R lasers or "CAUTION: Laser Radiation" for Class 2 pointers.
Classified as Class 2 or 3R according to the label. Do not use Class 3b or 4 products.
Operates at a wavelength between 630 nm and 680 nm.
Has a maximum output less than 5 mW, the lower the better.