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Cheap Laser Pointers Could Damage Eyesight

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By    |   Monday, 22 Aug 2016 01:32 PM

Inexpensive over-the-counter laser pointers could damage eyesight, a new study warns.

Laser pointers are small pen-like handheld devices that are mainly used for highlighting a point of interest by using a strongly colored beam of light. They are increasingly popular in a variety of settings, including offices, schools and homes.

Australian researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne purchased four models each of red and green lasers. All cost less than $30 in Australian, currency, which is $22.90 in U.S. dollars.

All four of the models of green lasers were above the 1 milliwatts (mW) legal limit of safety standards in Australia. In fact, the green models tested from 51 to 127 times over the safety limit, and, at upper levels, could damage eyesight. As for the red models, three of the four red models were within safety limits, they say.

Of the green models, those at the upper level “could cause catastrophic retinal damage," says Dr. Kate Fox, a senior lecturer at RMIT. As for red lasers, they are less likely to cause problems because the beam is not as focused as are the green ones, she notes. "There can still be some risk, but our normal response to visible light is to blink and turn away -- and that's usually enough to avoid any permanent damage,” Fox adds.

The laser pointers are of concern because they can be purchased by anyone at retail stores or on-line, including children, say the researchers, who presented their findings at the IEEE Engineers in Medicine and Biology Society conference in Orlando, Fla.

This study was done in Australia, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is also concerned about laser pointers. Last December, the agency issued a warning about using laser pointers, especially those used for entertainment purposes as toys.

FDA regulations limit the visible light power of hand-held laser pointers to 5 milliwatts (mW). Even at the 5mW legal limit, a laser aimed directly into the eye can cause temporary flash blindness, the agency warned.

The FDA believes many eye injuries from laser pointers go unreported. The agency also warned the eyes of children are the most vulnerable from such devices, but adult eyes could be harmed as well. 


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A new study warns that cheap laser pointers that are sold over-the-counter could damage eyesight.
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Monday, 22 Aug 2016 01:32 PM
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