Eye Injuries From Laser Pointers - Education, Business Tool or Weapon?

PARIS (March 13, 1998) The French newspaper Le Figaro on March 11, 1998 had a "fait divers" (a news brief) entitled "Stylo Laser" (laser pen).

The "Stylo Laser" story was, indeed, brief. A 16-year-old student at the College Camille-Claudel was scheduled to appear before the juvenile court in Bobigny (just outside Paris). Several days earlier in class the student had pointed a "stylo laser" at the eyes of one of his "professeurs." The teacher suffered visual problems for more than an hour. He then lodged a complaint against the student.

The "Stylo Laser" story caught our eye because on December 29, 1997, MedicineNet carried a warning about the dangers of laser pointers to the eye ("Laser Pointers + Children = Danger").

A laser pointer looks deceptively safe in the hands of a speaker pointing at a chart or screen. But the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) became concerned after receiving reports of eye injuries in children from laser pointers.

Momentary exposure to the beam of a laser pointer can cause temporary flash blindness from the sweep of the laser across the eyes. This is hazardous if the blinded person, as the FDA put it, is "engaged in a vision-critical activity" (like driving).

The light energy that laser pointers can aim into the eye can be more damaging than staring directly at the sun. "These laser pointers are not toys. Parents should treat them with the appropriate care," said FDA Lead Deputy Commissioner Michael A. Friedman, M.D. "They are useful tools for adults that should be used by children only with adequate supervision."

MedicineNet agreed with the FDA in December that "laser pointers are not toys."  We further recommended that laser pointers not be in the hands of children.

We echo that recommendation now. Laser pointers are NOT for children whether they are in the U.S. or, it seems, in a classroom in France.

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