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Lasers in Toys Can Cause Eye Damage

Be Careful With Your Kids

Many a kid (and parent) who has seen Luke Skywalker battle Darth Vader with a lightsaber thinks lasers are cool.

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What they may not know is this: When operated unsafely, or without certain controls, the highly-concentrated light from lasers—even those in toys—can be dangerous, causing serious eye injuries and even blindness. And not just to the person using a laser, but to anyone within range of the laser beam.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is particularly concerned about this potential danger to children and those around them, and has issued a guidance document on the safety of toy laser products.

According to Dan Hewett, health promotion officer at FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health, "A beam shone directly into a person's eye can injure it in an instant, especially if the laser is a powerful one."

However, laser injuries usually don't hurt, and vision can deteriorate slowly over time. Eye injuries caused by laser light may go unnoticed, for days and even weeks, and could be permanent, he says.

Some examples of laser toys are:

  • lasers mounted on toy guns that can be used for "aiming;"
  • spinning tops that project laser beams while they spin;
  • hand-held lasers used during play as "lightsabers;" and
  • lasers intended for entertainment that create optical effects in an open room.

Tips to Keep in Mind

  • Never aim or shine a laser directly at anyone, including animals. The light energy from a laser aimed into the eye can be hazardous, perhaps even more than staring directly into the sun.
  • Do not aim a laser at any reflective surface.
  • Remember that the startling effect of a bright beam of light can cause serious accidents when aimed at a driver in a car or otherwise negatively affect someone who is engaged in other activity (such as playing sports).

Source: fda

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