< Consumer Alerts Index

September 13, 2010

Statement from the American Academy of Ophthalmology regarding High-Powered Laser Pointers

An article published in the September 8 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine titled "Retinal Injuries from a Handheld Laser Pointer" discusses the case of a 15-year-old boy who purchased a high-powered handheld laser pointer on the Internet and the severe eye damage he suffered as a result of playing with this device in front of a mirror.

According to the Food and Drug Administra­tion (FDA), handheld lasers powered at 5 milliwatts (mW) are standard for certain types of lasers and laser projectors. However, lasers powered any higher than that are illegal. In the case of the 15-year old boy, the laser was powered at 150 (mW), well beyond the legal limit. These illegal products are often advertised as "toys" and it is very difficult to distinguish the harmless laser pointers from hazardous ones.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (Academy) cautions consumers about the dangers of these high-powered, illegal devices and alert parents to the harm they can cause.

Laser pointers of any kind should not be pointed anywhere near the eye or near reflective surfaces where the light can be re-directed. Eye damage and vision loss can occur when appropriate care is not taken in handling these devices.

If you or your child experiences pain, burning, redness, tearing or sensitivity to light after using a handheld laser pointer, see your ophthalmologist, an Eye M.D.

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