FDA Cautions on Laser Pointer RisksMar 30, 2016
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is reiterating the potential risks of laser pointers and other laser products. The agency noted that most products are safe, but some are being misused as toys. The notification reminds consumers that laser exposure can result in eye injury or burn the skin.
“The FDA recognizes that there are legitimate uses of laser pointers, including giving presentations and pointing to stars. However, even lasers under the 5 milliwatts (mW) limit can cause harm if not used properly.” the agency states. The FDA emphasized that laser pointers are not toys, and should not be used by children. Other recommendations include not aiming the laser towards any shiny or reflective surface, such as a mirror. Laser pointers should also not be aimed directly at a person, pet, vehicle or aircraft.
Consumers buying a laser should check to make sure the power is printed somewhere on the packaging. The limit for laser pointers is 5 mW; any products over this limit is illegal and possibly dangerous, the FDA says.
In December, the FDA issued a Safety Communication warning about the risk of laser pointers. Among other things, the communication shared examples of serious injuries from laser exposure: one child suffered eye damage after shining a 150 mW laser pointer in a mirror and another child is legally blind in both eyes after playing with a laser pointer. The Federal Aviation Administration also reported cases where pilots are temporarily blinded by laser pointers. Since 2006, over 26,000 such incidents of aircraft illuminations have been reported. “Using a laser to illuminate an aircraft is a federal crime and a felony and those convicted face a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.” the FDA said at the time.