FDA: Watch for Eye, Skin Injuries with Laser Pointers

FDA: Watch for Eye, Skin Injuries with Laser Pointers
FDA: Watch for Eye, Skin Injuries with Laser Pointers

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is alerting healthcare professionals about possible eye and skin injuries from exposure to laser-containing products. Laser products operated in an unsafe and uncontrolled manner may cause injury to the user and/or others within range of the laser beam. This is a particular concern for lasers intended for entertainment purposes, especially when used by children as toys. Most toys with lasers are safe and are compliant with performance standards but some products (eg, hand-held laser pointers) are being misused as toys.

While most eye injuries from laser pointers go unreported, the FDA is aware of laser pointer injuries involving military personnel, researchers, hobbyists and children. Two of these incidents include:

  • A child's eyes were damaged from reflected beams after directing a 150mW laser pointer into a mirror.
  • A child is legally blind in both eyes after playing with his mother's laser pointer which was purchased online.

The limit for visible light power of hand-held laser pointers is 5mW (milliwatts), which can still cause temporary flash blindness when aimed directly into the eye. Reflections of laser beams from mirrors or metallic surfaces may not allow for a quick protective reflex to avoid injury. Also, the FDA warned that intentionally staring into a 5mW beam will also result in eye injury; laser eye injuries are likely to be painless.

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Lasers emitting >5mW visible light power can cause severe and irreversible eye injury with increasing power; they can irritate or burn the skin. High-powered lasers are available on the Internet and stores though they are illegal and possibly dangerous. Healthcare professionals who treat eye and skin injuries should promptly report injuries through MedWatch as a medical device report even if the laser injury is suspected to be from a non-medical laser product. 

https://ssl.gstatic.com/ui/v1/icons/mail/images/cleardot.gifFor more information visit FDA.gov.

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