Lasers pointers have become so common that even your local baniya probably stocks them! Laser pointers, toys guns with lasers, and tops that project lasers when they spin are just a few of our everyday devices that use lasers. While we do know that powerful lasers can be dangerous, we assume that since these devices are so easily available, they can’t possibly pose a threat.
But are laser pointers and lasers from children’s toys really safe, or do they pose a risk of permanent eye damage?
Permanent Eye Damage From Low-Strength Lasers
“Staring into the beam of light from a laser can cause irreversible damage, depending on the strength of the laser and the length of time of exposure – unfortunately even those in toys are strong enough to cause such damage”
The strength of a laser is measured in milliwatts (mW) and hand-held laser pointers are considered to be non-hazardous as long as their power is limited to 5 mW. When someone shines a laser into your eyes, you will reflexively look away and so there is little chance of any permanent damage.
Unfortunately, younger children tend toÂ “play” with laser pointers by trying to see who can look into the beam of light for the longest time — a dangerous twist on the age old game of “chicken”! Staring into the beam from even a 5 mW laser will cause eye injury.
Permanent Eye Damage From High-Strength Lasers
“There have been documented cases where children have gone blind after playing with their parents’ laser pointers”
Lasers that are above the 5mW safety limit can cause irreversible and permanent damage to the eye. Experts warn that “a beam shone directly into a person’s eye can injure it in an instant, especially if the laser is a powerful one.”
Injuries from lasers that are over 5mW do not cause immediate pain and so the person or child may not realize the danger immediately. Their vision would start to deteriorate slowly over time and vision loss can become permanent in a matter of weeks or months. Light energy from a laser that is held close to the eye can actually be more hazardous than staring directly into the sun!
India does not have very strict regulations when it comes to the commercial use of these lasers and so many children’s laser toys don’t even have the strength of the laser printed on the packaging. Do not assume that just because a laser is relatively cheap, it is not “strong” and therefore “safe”. There have been documented cases where children have gone blind after playing with their parents’ laser pointers!