Health officials in Australia have a warning for parents around the world: laser pointers are not toys.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported that a Tasmanian teenager had lost 75 percent of his vision as a result of shining a laser pointer in his eyes while playing with it. As a result, optometrists are warning parents of the dangers associated with something that many consider just a toy.
A teenager permanently damaged his eyes with a laser pointer, which has led optometrists to dissuade parents from considering the lasers as toys for their children.
Optometrist Ben Armitage was called to determine why a 14-year-old boy has having issues with his vision.
“He came into see me and on the Friday night he’d got hold of a laser pen and unfortunately shined it in his eyes for a very brief period of time,” Armitage told ABC.
The laser pointer caused the boy to lose 75 percent of his vision in each eye.
“The back of his eyes on both sides are showing laser burns, so he’s actually managed to burn the retina at the back of the eye near an area called the macular,” Armitage explained.
Although the teenager reportedly did not feel any pain at the time of the incident, his vision was affected almost instantly.
“Unfortunately that’s the area where your detailed central vision takes place and therefore it’s had somewhat of an exaggerated effect on how much sight he’s lost.”
Armitage explained to ABC News that the damage caused to the boy’s eyes cannot be remedied with glasses.
“The way the eye works is that the majority of your usable vision is central, including all for example your color vision, takes place in a very very small area” he said. He explained it was as if the damage done to the boy’s eyes was akin to a broken film camera, in that no matter the quality of the lens on the front, the damage to the sensor at the back cannot be remedied.
According to the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Devices and Radiological health, a 5 mW laser could cause damage, and those “properly labeled” in the 3-5mW range have no reported cases of eye damage. Most laser pointers in the U.S. abide by these regulations, but some lasers that are improperly imported exceed federal safety limits, according to Scientific American.