The College of Optometrists advise anyone buying presents for children to be aware of the dangers of lasers

  • 18 Dec 2018

“If you can’t avoid lasers, ensure they are bought from a legitimate source”

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The College of Optometrists is encouraging parents to be vigilant about any toys containing lasers this Christmas. As the Office for Product Safety and Standards has advised that laser pointers are not toys, the College is reminding parents that lasers can be a danger to vision. It is warning that laser pointers are not toys and should not be given to children to play with, and that parents should only buy toys containing a laser from reputable retailers. 

Daniel Hardiman-McCartney, Clinical Adviser at The College of Optometrists, explains: “Lasers used to be confined to sci-fi films but in the last few years, they have become readily available, relatively cheap and increasingly powerful. Many are marketed for children, and you may be forgiven for thinking they are nothing more than a cheap harmless novelty, However laser pointers are not toys and can be dangerous. Curious young children have accidentally shone laser pointers at their friends, or stared into the beam, resulting in eye damage.” 

“Firstly, don’t let your children play with laser pointers, remain vigilant check the gifts your children receive to ensure they are safe. If you choose to buy your child a toy with a laser, please make sure you buy it from a legitimate source to ensure it meets the necessary safety standards. Toys should have a CE mark on them to ensure a level of quality, but it is important you buy the toys from a trusted source to ensure the marking is genuine.” 

“If you think you have looked into a laser you should consult your optometrist or GP who will test your sight, examine your eye and, if necessary, refer you to a retinal specialist. If you have it, it is useful to take the laser with you, to give your practitioner as much information as possible.”

Lasers in toys are increasingly commonplace – and can be found in toys such as guns, star pointers, lightsabers and spinning tops that project laser beams, the lasers should be class 1, less than 0.39mW strong. However, some toys purchased from non-legitimate sources, such as online marketplaces or temporary market stalls, have been found to contain much stronger lasers, in some cases hundreds of times stronger, which can be hazardous for eyes/eye eight when viewed directly.
Laser pointers are much stronger, designed for professional use, and should never be used as a toy. These a pose a real risk to eye sight, with some as strong as 1000mW and those designed at pointing at stars up to 6000mW.  If shone directly into the eye, a high-powered laser is capable of producing heat that can cause serious damage to the back of the eye in a matter of seconds. In severe cases, a burn to the retina can cause scarring, leading to permanent impairment of sight. The effects are often instant, although symptoms may progress in the hours after exposure, and recovery can take months, even in mild cases. Currently, strong lasers are not covered by the strict safety rules and regulations of the EU.


Note to editors

  1. The College is the professional body for optometry. It qualifies the profession and delivers the guidance and training to ensure optometrists provide the best possible care. We promote excellence through the College’s affixes, by building the evidence base for optometry, and raising awareness of the profession with the public, commissioners, and health care professionals.
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