Many households probably have a laser-pointer or two. They are commonly used as toys for cats to chase around, and many of us probably have them on various keychains. But they are a lot more dangerous than a lot of people realize, and for 14-year-old Ben Armitage, that lesson was learned the hard way.
He was playing with a laser one evening, he claims, “for a very brief period of time.” Unfortunately, even those brief moments were enough to do permanent and lasting damage.
He did not experience any pain, but his optometrist notes that the difference in the boy’s vision would have been immediate. The boy burned both of his retinas, in the macular area – and it won’t grow back. The area that became damaged is where detailed vision and colors are processed, and he has retained only 25% of 20/20 vision.
They are hopeful that once the swelling goes down, the burns may decrease in size. Patients with injuries like these, however, rarely regain their vision after the accident.
The FDA warns against purchasing lasers as toys, and has released these guidelines to follow to lessen the chance of injury or vision loss:
Never aim a laser at anyone – regardless of what area of the body is being targeted.
Never buy a laser pointer for a child.
Never buy a laser unless if has the following information on the label:
— a statement that it complies with Chapter 21 CFR (the Code of Federal Regulations).
— the manufacturer or distributor’s name and the date of manufacture.
— a warning to avoid exposure to laser radiation.
— the class designation, ranging from Class I to IIIa. Class IIIb and IV products should be used only by individuals with proper training and in applications where there is a legitimate need for these high-powered products.