Scientists have issued a health and safety warning after research found that some laser pointers available online are powerful enough to blind people.
Leading charity the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) is calling on the Government to regulate the use of laser pens and issue warnings to users.
There are some recent reports that people have been using the laser to target aeroplane pilots, risking serious damage.
Scientists at RMIT University in Melbourne found some laser pointers are powerful enough to cause permanent damage to the eyes.
Researchers tested eight laser pointers as part of the research.
Four “green” lasers failed Australian safety standards despite being available legally for around £17.50.
The current limit for devices is around one milliwatt, however, these lasers had power ratings between 51 and 127 times greater than that.
Dr Kate Fox, a lead scientist at RMIT University in Melbourne, says the upper levels of the beams can cause “catastrophic retinal damage”.
“Class Two” lasers are restricted in Britain to a maximum output power of one milliwatt, with a beam wavelength of between 400 and 700 nanometres (nm).
However, Public Health England guidelines say any beams more powerful Class Two lasers should not be on general sale to members of the public.
Now there are fears that higher-rated lasers are being bought online and shipped to the UK from abroad.
RNIB’s Eye Health Campaigns Manager, Clara Eaglen, says it is “extremely concerning” that stronger lasers can be acquired from overseas without buyers fully understanding the risks.
Ms Eaglen is calling on the Government to introduce better regulation and warnings for parents and the general public, saying the risks of using lasers need to be taken seriously.
Meanwhile, Professor Marc Sarossy who is part of the research group suggests red lasers are less of a worry.
Red beams trigger a person’s natural impulse to blink and turn away, reducing damage. Green lasers, however, produce higher levels of infrared radiation and do not trigger the same natural responses.
A spokesman for the Chartered Trading Standards Institute says in Britain it is against the law to sell laser pens or pointers with a higher rating than Category One.
Date Published: September 9, 2016
Author: Jonathan Brown