Laser pointers are often used for presentations and other purposes, but reports of eye and skin injuries have prompted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reiterate the risks. In a consumer safety notification, the FDA states that in some cases, laser pointers have mistakenly been used as toys. Misuse of laser pointers can lead to eye injury or skin burns. 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.
Children should not use laser pointers, the FDA states. The notification states that the devices are not toys, and that “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.”
Additionally, the agency urges consumers not to aim lasers 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.
The FDA notified the public about laser pointer risks in December. In a Safety Communication, the agency 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.