Doctors eye health hazard in powerful laser pointers


“This is a legitimate public health menace,” said Williams, a spokesman for the American Academy of Opthalmology. “Parents should be aware there are inappropriate lasers available over the internet.”

The FDA has warned in the past that it has found laser pointers and toys that exceed the output limit of 5 milliwatts—five-thousandths of a watt. 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.

His agency recommends that consumers make sure laser pointer labels carry a designation of Class IIIa or lower, along with a statement of compliance with Chapter 21 CFR. Hewett suggests consumers should look on the label to make sure the power output is no more than 5 milliwatts, or 5 mW.

But he stressed that 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.

Links:

New England Journal of Medicine

FDA on laser products

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