Laser Pointers: Eye Hazard With High-Powered Versions

By Gary Johnson - Sep 12, 2010

We all know of the dangers of laser pens when they are pointed towards drivers of cars or other vehicles, but high powered versions have recently damaged the eyes of people playing with them.

Malcolm Ritter of Guardian.co.uk is reporting that the latest incident was a fifteen year old boy who damaged his eyes with a laser pointer. The device was purchased over the internet where the dangerous high powered versions can easily be found. An eye expert has called it “a legitimate public health menace.”

The case was reported in the Thursday edition of the New England Journal of Medicine by the doctors who treated the boy in Switzerland. This follows two similar cases in June where a British teenager damaged his eyes with a laser pointer. And a British physician was zapped by his seven year old son, and his vision was affected for several months.

In the US laser pointers a restricted by the Food and Drug Administration, and will only cause eye damage if used for prolonged periods. But the more powerful versions are easily picked up online like the one used by the Swiss boy’s, who used it to burst balloons and burn holes in his sister’s trainers.

The accident happened when he was playing in front of a mirror and zapped his eyes. He noticed straight away that his sight was blurry, but left it a couple of weeks before seeing a doctor. The vision in his left eye was badly damaged, and his other eye also showed vision loss.

His left eye showed a hemorrhage with scarring on the other. After four months had passed his vision showed some improvement but some impairment remained.

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Also See: Nintendo 3DS: British Optician warns of permanent damage to children’s eyes