A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use

US: FAA requests comments by Oct 31 2017 regarding form used to report outdoor laser operations

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is asking for public comment on Form AC 7140-1, “Notice of Outdoor Laser Operations” (which is part of FAA Advisory Circular 70-1).

The form is filled out by commercial and professional users who want to operate lasers outdoors, including laser light shows, observatories, LIDAR operators, and satellite communications.

According to FAA, there have been about 400 laser operators who filled out the form. The agency also says it takes 4 hours to gather information needed for the form and to fill it out.

FAA needs to periodically review whether the form is useful and whether the 4-hour estimate is accurate. The deadline for comments is October 30 2017.

The August 31 2017 Federal Register notice states:

       “In accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, FAA invites public comments about our intention to request the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approval to reinstate a previously approved information collection. In order for the FAA to ensure safety it proposes to collect information from potential outdoor laser operators. The FAA will review the proposed laser activity against air traffic operations and verify that the laser operation will not interfere with air traffic operations.”

The notice details what information specifically is requested:

       “You are asked to comment on any aspect of this information collection, including (a) Whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for FAA's performance; (b) the accuracy of the estimated burden; (c) ways for FAA to enhance the quality, utility and clarity of the information collection; and (d) ways that the burden could be minimized without reducing the quality of the collected information. The agency will summarize and/or include your comments in the request for OMB's clearance of this information collection.”

Form AC 7140-1 does not impact laser pointer users per se, but it can affect professional outdoor laser users.

  • The most impacted are outdoor laser light show operators. They are required by the Food and Drug Administration to submit their shows to FAA, and to receive a “letter of non-objection” from FAA, before FDA will grant permission (a “variance”) for a show.

  • All other outdoor users are requested to submit Form AC 7140-1, but are not legally required to do so. This is because FAA has no regulatory authority to restrict outdoor laser usage. There may be organizations such as NASA or observatories that have internal requirements to submit AC 7140-1 and receive a letter of non-objection. This is usually done in the spirit of cooperation and/or to help avoid liability issues in case of problems.

Additional information, including instructions on how to submit comments, is at the Federal Register notice webpage. LaserPointerSafety.com has a webpage with suggested corrections to Advisory Circular 70-1, and advice on filling it out.

UK: 19 questions UK government is asking advice on by October 6 2017

The following are the 19 questions the U.K. government asked on August 12 2017, regarding use and misuse of laser pointers. This comes from their 23-page Call for Evidence PDF document.

Interested parties are requested to submit answers to these questions — and any free-form answers as well — via an online survey, by postal mail, or by sending an email by October 6 2017.

Additional information and links about the U.K. call for evidence are here.

1.
What do you consider to be the scale of the problem with laser pointers? Is the problem specific to high-powered laser pointers (those with a strength of 5 mW or above), or a particular class of laser pointers? What evidence do you have to support your view?

2. How well do you think the current legislation is working? Is the current guidance on safe use of laser products sufficient?

3. Is the current guidance on manufacturing and importing laser pointers sufficient?

4. Do you have any further evidence about the nature and misuse of laser pointers?

5. What legitimate uses are there for high-powered laser pointers?

6. Have you ever purchased, sold or made a laser pointer? If so, can you provide more information about where you bought or sold the product (or its component parts), and what the intended use was?

7. (Enforcement Bodies) Do you know/can you estimate the number of manufacturers, retailers, importers and/or distributers within your Local Authority area?

8. What strength laser pointers do you make/sell? What is the price of each strength laser pointer that you make/sell? Is this a seasonal product (e.g. do you sell more at Christmas)? How many do you sell annually?

9. What is your target market?

10. (If you are an enforcement authority) Have you undertaken any enforcement actions with respect to laser pointers, and if so what were they?

11. (If you are an enforcement authority) What do you estimate as being the level of compliance with the General Product Safety Regulations for laser pointers in your area? On what evidence do you base this?

12. Do you think a licensing system to control the sale and purchase of laser pointers would be effective?

13. What do you estimate the costs of implementing a licensing system to be? How should these be recovered?

14. How might a licensing regime operate? Who should administer a licensing system? Who should enforce it?

15. Are you aware of any other licensing systems in the UK or in other countries – either for laser pointers or for similar products - which might provide the Government with a useful comparison?

16. Do you think that a ban on advertising laser pointers would be effective? Why?

17. How else might Government and other public authorities increase public awareness about the potential dangers of laser pointers?

18. How else do you think that the supply of high-powered laser pointers could be restricted? Why?

19. Do you have any other comments or views which might inform the Government’s recommendations?

UK: Government asks for ways to crack down on laser misuse; deadline is October 6

The U.K. government on August 12 2017 issued “a call for evidence into the regulation of laser pointers, including the potential value of retail licensing schemes, advertising restrictions, and potential restrictions on ownership in order to address serious public safety concerns.”

The government is concerned both with hazards from aiming laser pointers at pilots, drivers and train operators, and the potential for retinal damage among consumers when high-powered lasers are aimed into eyes.

They opened a consultation asking for suggestions for eight weeks, starting August 12 and closing at 11:45 pm on October 6 2017. A 23-page Call For Evidence PDF document is posted at the open consultation webpage. It includes background information on laser hazards and misuse.

There are 19 specific questions asked by the government, plus it is possible to respond with free-form text. Persons can respond via an online survey, by postal mail, or by sending an email.

The full text of the government’s press release is below.

From the UK government press release “Government crackdown on misuse of laser pointers”, the open consultation “Laser pointers: Call for evidence” webpage, and the call for evidence online survey webpage.
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Taiwan: CAA considering restrictions after 8 laser incidents in first six months of 2017

Taiwan’s Civil Aeronautics Administration is preparing an amendment to the Civil Aviation Act, to make it illegal to aim laser beams at aircraft.

In previous years the Air Navigation and Weather Service had 4-5 reports per year of laser interference. As of late June 2017, there had been 8 reports.

The most recent incident happened June 21 2017, when China Airlines flight 163 was landing at Taoyuan International Airport. Laser beams were coming from near to the runway. The pilot “requested that the interference be moved, after which the flight landed safely.”

From the Taipei Times

UK: Pilots upset after proposed anti-laser law dropped

The following is the text of a June 22 2017 press release by the British Airline Pilots’ Association. The formatting has been changed slightly from the original.

Despite “dangerously high” figures on laser attacks on aircraft, the new Government has dropped plans to introduce tougher laws, a move which the UK pilots’ association says is “infuriating and dangerous”.

BALPA had been campaigning for the tougher laws in response to consistently high reports of laser attacks on planes year on year. Last year’s figures stood at more than 1,200 reported attacks.

Before the
[June 8] general election, the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) was pleased to see a specific laser offence included in the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill. The new offence proposed that offenders could face up to five years in prison if they shone a laser at an aircraft.

However, BALPA has now learned that the Bill will not now include the laser regulations.

The association has constantly warned that shining a laser at aircraft is extremely dangerous, particularly in critical phases of flight such as take-off and landing, putting the lives of passengers at risk. BALPA General Secretary, Brian Strutton, said:

“It is infuriating to see the changes we’d hoped for appear to have been discarded. Not having this legislation is dangerous and puts the lives of passengers and crew at risk.

“The proposed tougher laws received cross-party support so it’s baffling that they have been dropped.

“When a laser pen is pointed at an aircraft it can dazzle and distract the pilot, and has the potential to cause a crash. Last year’s incident figures remain dangerously high, with the equivalent of more than three laser attacks a day across the UK.”


The Guardian has a June 22 2017 story about BALPA’s criticism, with additional information and statistics on U.K. laser incidents.

An April 20 2017 analysis of the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill, written by the law firm of Addleshaw Goddard LLP, had this description:

The Bill makes it an offence to direct or shine a laser beam at a vehicle in such a way as to dazzle or distract the person driving, piloting or navigating that vehicle.

This offence is not completely new. Under section 225 of the Air Navigation Order 2016, it was an offence to 'dazzle or distract' the pilot of an aircraft and under section 240 it was an offence to 'recklessly or negligently act in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft, or any person in an aircraft'. Many have argued these offences are insufficient as they are limited to aircraft, and are summary offences only which restrict police powers. The new offence therefore applies to all 'Vehicles', which are defined as anything used for travel by land, water or air and so will apply in relation to trains, buses and other forms of transport. The penalties remain the same: a maximum fine and imprisonment for up to 5 years.

However, many still consider the new offence insufficient. A number of organisations and rights groups wanted lasers to be reclassified as offensive weapons when used in some circumstances, particularly following the failure last year of a Private Members Bill which had sought to make the sale of high wattage lasers unlawful in certain circumstances.


US: UPDATED - FDA wants to allow only red laser pointers, calling all other colors "defective"

On October 25 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposed to designate all laser pointers that are not red as “defective.” This designation would prohibit U.S. sales of green, blue and other non-red pointers and would make it easier for FDA to control and seize imports of such lasers.


spctrm3  FDA laser pointer proposal 0680w

FDA’s primary concern is green lasers’ interference with the vision of vehicle operators including pilots. Green lasers are involved in over 90% of incidents where pilots reported to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that they saw or were illuminated by laser light during a flight. (The charts below were added in January 2017 after the 2016 FAA final numbers came out.)

FAA 2016 reported laser colors pie chart - 0600w



FAA 2016 reported laser colors pie chart nanometers - 0600w


FDA is also worried about blue lasers which can have greater visibility to night-adapted eyes than red lasers of equivalent power.

Thus FDA is applying the “defective” label — giving them added authority over potentially injurious products — because of what they consider to be a well-known, established public safety hazard to operators of vehicles, aircraft and watercraft.

What FDA is trying to accomplish


FDA has two main goals:

     1) “Turn back the clock” to the 1990s and early 2000s when almost all laser pointers were red. According to the agency, red light has the least interference with pilot vision, compared to equivalent-power green beams which can appear up to 28 times brighter. During this period there were dozens or low hundreds of reported laser/aviation incidents per year, compared with 7,703 incidents in 2015 and 7,442 incidents in 2016.

     2) Make it much easier for customs and law enforcement to identify illegal laser pointers simply by their color. Red and orange-red laser pointers would be permitted; all others would be prohibited for general sales.

In addition, FDA sought to address requests from legislators including Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY). After high-profile incidents, lawmakers have written to FDA, asking for a ban on green pointers due to their vision-blocking abilities being a risk to pilots and passengers.

Who would be affected


FDA’s proposed color-based prohibition would only affect the manufacture, importation and sales of laser pointer products introduced into commerce. Although pointers fall under the FDA’s “surveying, leveling and alignment” (SLA) control, only pointers as defined by FDA would be restricted to red. Standard SLA equipment would not be affected — they could use any color beam.

Individuals such as hobbyists who manufacture their own laser products for their personal use would be free from FDA laser product regulations. This is because such individuals would not be considered manufacturers by FDA.

Since federal law cannot control individual use or misuse, states and localities could impose their own regulations. (A few states and localities already have their own restrictions on use and/or possession; these are not currently based on the color of the laser.) One benefit of FDA’s proposal is that any new state and local laws could “piggyback” on FDA’s color-based restrictions. That would make it easier for local law enforcement to use color to easily identify whether a person possessed a prohibited or permitted laser.

FDA’s proposal and rationale was stated in draft amendments presented October 25 to an FDA advisory panel known as “TEPRSSC”.

Click to read more...

UK: BALPA calls for high-powered lasers to be treated as offensive weapons

The British Airline Pilots’ Association called for greater regulation of lasers and drones, at a Trades Union Congress meeting in Brighton on September 14 2016.

BALPA noted that there were 1,439 reports of laser attacks in 2015, and that 55% of pilots experienced a laser attack in the past 12 months. A spokesperson said BALPA “has been campaigning for a long time for high-powered lasers to be treated as what they are — offensive weapons.”

The association was also concerned with the threat of incidents involving drones.

A motion to ask for improved regulations passed at the meeting.

From a BALPA press release

UK: Arrest persons carrying "high-powered" laser pointers in public, says top aviation regulator

The head of the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority said that persons carrying “high-powered” laser pointers in public should be arrested even if they are not using them. He said that CAA and the British Airline Pilots Association want legislation outlawing possession of high-powered laser pens without a license. The chief executive of CAA, Andrew Haines, was speaking in late August 2016 to the Press Association about the misuse of lasers, which he considers to be a greater threat than drone near-misses, since laser misuse is “a deliberate attempt to cause harm.”

According to Haines, laser attacks have permanently damaged pilots’ vision, and it is conceivable that they could cause an aircraft crash. In 2015 there were 1,439 laser incidents reported to CAA.

Haines said there is no legitimate reason for a person to have a high-powered laser pen in public. Press reports did not indicate Haines’ definition of “high-powered”. (In the U.K., lasers used as pointers are limited to 1 milliwatt [the U.S. limit is 5 mW], so it is possible that “high-powered” would mean any handheld laser above 1 mW.)

Haines asked “Why does Joe Bloggs walking down the street need a laser that can pop a balloon at 50 miles, that can cause permanent damage to a pilot?”

The CAA chief wants new, restrictive legislation because at present, it is difficult to find laser perpetrators and to prove they had intent to endanger aviation, under the Air Navigation Order 2009.

A U.K. government spokesperson said "We take this issue very seriously and we continue to work with other Government departments, the CAA and industry to determine how best to control the sale, use and possession of laser pens. We are looking to make changes as soon as possible."

From the Daily Mail, BBC, the Mirror, and other news sources. For commentary about Haines’ statements, click the “Read More…” link below.
Click to read more...

US: Pilot group forms to combat laser strikes

A group of pilots has formed Pilots Against Laser Strikes, LLC. The group’s mission statement says the non-profit volunteer organization is “dedicated to educating and informing the public of the dangers of laser strikes on aircraft and reducing the number of laser strikes that occurs on a daily basis.”

Pilots Against Laser Strikes logo smaller 250w

On the education side, volunteers will visit schools and airports to provide information about why people should not aim lasers at aircraft.

On the legislative side, the group wants to create a National Laser Registration List for Class 4 lasers (those over 500 milliwatts of power), with federal law mandating registration.

PALS was founded in March 2016 by pilot Craig Pieper, who was illuminated by green laser light in December 2015 while on approach to Newark Liberty International Airport. The organization’s website is at pilotsagainstlaserstrikes.org.

From Aero Crew News August 2016, pp. 26-27 and Metropolitan Airport News, August 2016, p. 10.

US: Cleveland bans lasers from area around convention; guns are allowed

Lasers, light bulbs, tennis balls, hammocks and toy guns are among 72 items the public is banned from possessing in a 3.3 square mile “event zone” surrounding the site of the July 18-21 2016 Republican National Convention. However, the public is permitted to openly carry real guns in the area.

The prohibition lasts from July 18 through July 22. The list of items was first published by the city of Cleveland as part of regulations issued May 25 2016.

In the list, some items have specific descriptions, such as a restriction on “Lumber larger than 2” in width and 1⁄4” thick, including supports for signs” or “Umbrellas with metal tips.” For lasers, the list simply bans “Lasers;” there is no additional description such as allowing lasers under a certain size or power output.

The general public can possess a banned item if it is used in a workplace or at a home within the restricted zone, and if the item is used within the business or home.

The public is allowed to have guns in the event zone due to an Ohio state law allowing open carry by licensed gun owners. The event zone covers most of downtown Cleveland.

A much smaller security zone inside the convention arena, under the jurisdiction of the Secret Service, has banned guns.

From Wired and Q13 Fox. The city of Cleveland regulations are here. Click the “Read More…” link for a map of the event zone and the complete list of 72 banned items.
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Australia: Laser incidents rose 2007-2012; fell from 2013-2015

Data from Airservices Australia shows that pilots’ reports of laser illuminations increased in the four years after a ban on sales and possession of laser pointers, but then dropped somewhat in the subsequent three years.

Pic 2016-06-22 at 11.58.31 AM


Compare this with the number of illuminations in the United States over the same period:

Pic 2016-06-22 at 11.59.12 AM


Australia’s data roughly tracks the U.S. data during the period 2007-2012. Here are the two charts above, superimposed, with the Australia numbers multiplied six times. The slope of the lines are similar for the first six years.

Pic 2016-06-22 at 11.59.47 AM


Data from Airservices Australia, a corporation owned by the Australian Government whose services include air traffic control and aeronautical data. The information was provided in response to a LaserPointerSafety.com media inquiry. Thanks to Amanda Palmer for her assistance with the request.

Canada: 663 laser/aircraft incidents in 2015 based on newspaper analysis of CADORS data

A report published February 19 2016 in the Ottawa Citizen states that there were 663 laser incidents in Canada. This was based on the newspaper’s analysis of Transport Canada’s Civil Aviation Daily Occurrence Reporting System (CADORS). The paper noted that Transport Canada considers the reports preliminary and “subject to change.”

Here is the CADORS data:

Pic 2016-06-22 at 11.49.29 AM


Compare this with the number of illuminations in the United States over the same period:


Pic 2016-06-22 at 11.48.58 AM


Canada’s data roughly tracks the U.S. data. Here are the two charts above, superimposed, with the CADORS numbers multiplied 11.7 times. The slope of the lines are similar for all but 2013/2014, and the endpoints are remarkably close.

Pic 2016-06-22 at 11.48.11 AM


From an analysis by Andrew Duffy in the Ottawa Citizen. Note that a few days earlier, CBC News stated that there were 590 laser/aircraft incidents in 2015. There is no indication as to reasons for the discrepancy.

UK: Government safety expert says eBay needs to crack down on sale of lasers

A laser safety expert at Public Health England told the Sun that “eBay needs to crack down on the sale of [laser pens] to keep the British public safe — and prevent a major incident.”

Dr. John O’Hagan said that many of the handheld laser pens and pointers being sold on eBay “are very clearly not one milliwatt.” According to eBay guidelines, such lasers above 1 mW are not supposed to be listed. O’Hagan noted that the pens may be “misleadingly …. designed to look like less powerful lasers, and are priced at only around £5 [USD $7], so people may not even be aware of what they are buying.”

From the
Sun; scroll down to the “Lasers” section. See also a similar warning from a UK laser pointer seller.

UK: Laser pointer seller says eBay is the main source of UK illegal high-powered lasers

The managing director of two UK websites that sell laser pens issued a statement saying that eBay is the primary source of illegal, high-powered lasers in the United Kingdom. The February 17 2016 statement from Paul Loudon also notes that lasers above 1 mW are not freely available, and that existing laws already make it illegal to point a laser at an aircraft or vehicle.

Loudon estimates that eBay sales “are in the thousands” each day. According to the statement, “Currently there are over 2000 laser pens for sale on eBay UK. It appears 90% of the listings are for products that are clearly over 1mW and often with sales histories of thousands in a single listing. Multiply that and it becomes really obvious where all these overpowered lasers are coming from that idiots are abusing.”

He calls for eBay to begin “monitoring and delisting all these crazy hyped up laser listings”.

From a statement emailed to LaserPointerSafety.com on February 17 2016. The complete statement is reprinted below; click the “Read More…” link. And click here for other eBay-related stories, including one a day later where a UK public safety official called on eBay to “crack down” on laser sales.
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UK: Government department in talks to possibly withdraw high-powered lasers

On February 16 2016, the U.K. Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said it will meet with “stakeholders, including the Civil Aviation Authority, to determine what more can be done to protect the public from the potential dangers of certain laser products.” This comes on the heels of the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) asking for lasers to be treated as “offensive weapons” after a Virgin Atlantic flight turned back due to a laser illumination.

The meeting is scheduled to occur during the week of February 22-26. A department spokesperson said on February 16 that it was too early to discuss any potential changes to laws.

From the Telegraph

Canada: 590 laser/aircraft incidents in 2015; pilot group wants handheld lasers classed as weapons

Transport Canada received 590 reports of laser illuminations of aircraft in 2015, according to a February 16 2016 news story by CBC News. They reported that this is up 17% from 2014, and is three times the 2009 figure of around 120 reports.

The head of the Air Canada Pilots Association said that the figures show that education is not working, and handheld lasers should be designated as prohibited weapons.

From CBC News. Note that a few days later, the Ottawa Citizen did an analysis of Transport Canada’s database which shows different figures: 663 laser incidents in 2015, which is up 32% from the 2014 total of 502.

UK: BALPA calls for "more action" after Virgin Atlantic flight diverts back to takeoff airport

The British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA), a professional association and registered trade union, issued a statement about the Virgin Atlantic flight that diverted back to Heathrow due to a laser illumination causing a pilot to have medical concerns.

The following is from the BALPA website, Feb. 15 2016. More news items referencing BALPA are here.



LASER INCIDENT SHOWS MORE ACTION IS NEEDED
15/02/2016

Last night’s laser attack incident clearly shows why more needs to be done to tackle the growing use of lasers against aircraft.

The crew of Virgin Atlantic flight VS25 bound for New York took the decision to return to Heathrow after reportedly being attacked with a laser shortly after take off.

Jim McAuslan, General Secretary of BALPA, said,

“This is not an isolated incident. Aircraft are attacked with lasers at an alarming rate and with lasers with ever-increasing strength.

“It is an incredibly dangerous thing to do. Shining a laser at an aircraft puts that aircraft, its crew and all the passengers on board at completely unnecessary risk.

“Modern lasers have the power to blind, and certainly to act as a huge distraction and to dazzle the pilots during critical phases of flight.

“We are sure the police will do everything in their power to find the culprits of this attack and prosecute them.

“We repeat our call to the Government to classify lasers as offensive weapons which would give the police more power to arrest people for possessing them if they had no good reason to have them. This incident shows why this is becoming more-and-more urgent.

“Pilots across the world know how dangerous laser attacks are and therefore will join with me in commending the actions of the crew of VS25 who put their passengers’ safety first and took the decision to return to Heathrow.”


US: Sen. Schumer gets new FDA leader to consider banning high-power green laser pointers

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer met on February 3 2016 with Dr. Robert Califf, nominated to be commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, to discuss the threat of high-powered green laser pointers. At Sen. Schumer’s request, Dr. Califf agreed to consider having the FDA ban the sale of such pointers.

As of February 4, Califf’s nomination still awaited Senate approval.

Sen. Schumer, a Democrat from New York State, issued a statement saying “We’re only one month into 2016 and already there has been a green laser strike targeting aircrafts in the New York metropolitan area. We need to do something, and that is why I am pushing the FDA Commissioner nominee to act ahead of his confirmation. Green laser pointers have been a repeated danger to pilots across the country and I will continue to urge the FDA to use its authority and finally ban green, long-range, high-powered laser pointers once and for all.”

According to Newsday, there would be an exemption for professional uses. No additional details on the exemption criteria were available.

From Newsday (Note: accessing the article may require payment or answering survey questions)

US: Sen. Schumer asks FDA to regulate sale of green lasers to public

On November 24 2015, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to “establish new regulations that would prevent individuals from obtaining green lasers for non-professional use.” This would include Class IIIa, IIIb and IV lasers, meaning any green laser with an output 1 milliwatt or more.

The following is a press release issued by the Senator, followed by (after the “Read More:” link) a copy of the Senator’s letter to the FDA Commissioner:

Standing in the terminal at Buffalo Niagara International Airport in Cheektowaga, NY, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today called on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban the sale of high-powered, long-range green laser pointers to the public. Schumer’s push comes on the heels of multiple incidents in which green lasers were pointed at aircraft and temporarily blinded and disoriented pilots mid-flight. This includes the recent incident two weeks ago when the pilot of a FedEx plane flying over Jamestown reported a green beam of light coming from a laser on the ground lighting up the aircraft. Schumer said that while it is lucky no one was harmed in the Jamestown incident or any other green laser attack, the federal government should act before a horrific event occurs, not after.

“Simply put: these green, long-range, high-powered laser pointers are a danger to our pilots and the hundreds of passengers whose lives depend on their eyesight and training. While we are very lucky the recent incident in Jamestown did not yield devastating results, we cannot sit idly by and wait for a horrific incident to occur before we act,” said Schumer. “That is why I am calling on the FDA to use its authority to regulate these dangerous devices. They're quickly becoming the weapon of choice for wrong-doers who want to harass our pilots and put passengers’ lives in jeopardy, and they should be banned before people are seriously hurt.”

Schumer said there has been a recent onslaught of green laser pointer attacks on aircraft that threaten the safety of pilots, passengers, and civilians on the ground. According to a USA Today report, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recorded more than 5,300 laser strikes from January of this year through October 16, up from the more than 2,800 laser strikes reported in 2010. Schumer said numbers like these suggest a widespread misuse of the product and mean it should only be available to qualified professionals. According to the same USA Today report, between the night of November 11 and the morning of November 12, federal authorities reported 20 laser strikes on aircraft across the country, including the case in Jamestown. Schumer said the fact that the plane was flying more than 23,000 feet in the air shows how powerful these lasers are, and how dangerous they can be when they get into the wrong hands. As a result, Schumer is urging the FDA to ban the sale of high-powered, long-range green laser pointers to the public.

Laser pointers at one time were primarily used for presentation purposes in boardrooms and classrooms, they are now wildly available at trinket shops, flea markets, retailers and on the Internet, and are much more powerful. According to the FDA, laser pointers can be momentarily hazardous when staring directly at the beam. For pilots, these green lasers can cause flash blindness, a temporary or permanent loss of vision when the light-sensitive parts of the eye are exposed to an intensity of light they are not physically meant to handle. In addition, research suggests green lasers are more dangerous to the eye than red lasers because the light spectrum is more easily absorbed by the retina and more susceptible to damage. In fact, green lasers are considered to be more than double the strength of other colored lasers and can travel for miles, according to many media reports and health and aviation experts. Schumer there are certain types of lasers for which manufacturers must obtain FDA permission before they can be sold in the U.S., and green lasers should be included in that category so they are only sold to professionals, rather than would-be pranksters.

Because the FDA has the authority to regulate these lasers and their manufacturers, Schumer is strongly urging the federal agency to make high-powered, green laser pointers unavailable for public sale; they should be restricted to those with a ‎specific professional purpose. Schumer said that while perpetrators convicted of pointing a laser at a plane can be sentenced to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, they are often hard to track down following an incident. Because the products are merely required to have a warning label, Schumer said more must be done to limit public availability in order to protect public health and safety.

Schumer was joined by Adam Perry, Aviation Committee Chairman at the NFTA, Kimberly A. Minkel, NFTA Executive Director, and George Gast, NFTA Police Chief.

“I applaud Senator Schumer for his efforts to ensure the safety of our aviation industry,” said Kimberley A. Minkel, Executive Director of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority. “I hope the FDA responds to the senator’s request in a manner that will make it much more difficult for laser pointers to be available. Lasing is a serious crime that poses an imminent threat to aviation safety and could result in a pilot losing control of their aircraft, thus potentially causing mass casualties.”

Previously, the FDA has noted concern about the increased availability of some laser products. According to a March 2013 study by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), green lasers generate green light from infrared light, from which the eye cannot protect itself. In that NIST report, the agency noted that ideally, the device should be designed and manufactured to confine the infrared light within the laser housing. However, according to the NIST results, more than 75 percent of the devices tested emitted infrared light in excess of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) limit.

Schumer said in New York incidents of green lasers pointed at aircraft have been numerous and significant. In addition to the most recent one in Jamestown, there were 39 laser incidents between January 1, 2015 and May 15, 2015 in New York City alone. In 2014, there were 17 green laser incidents out of a total 19 laser incidents at JFK airport; 37 green laser incidents out of a total 41 laser incidents at LaGuardia Airport; 20 green laser incidents out of a total 28 at Newark.

There are four major hazard classes (I to IV) of lasers, including three subclasses (IIa, IIIa, IIIb). The higher the class, the more powerful the laser. Consumer laser products include classes I, II and IIIa and lasers for professional use may be in classes IIIb and IV. Laser pointers are included in Class IIIa. The FDA requires warning labels on most laser products, including the power output and the hazard class of the product. Some lasers are strictly for use by medical, industrial or entertainment professionals and can only be used by a person with a license and training.

A copy of Senator Schumer’s letter to the FDA appears below:
[click on the “Read More…” link]
Click to read more...

US: Coast Guard says NJ laws have not reduced laser strikes

The U.S. Coast Guard held a media event July 28 2015 at Coast Guard Station Ocean City (MD) about the dangers of aiming lasers at aircraft. For the Coast Guard, the main threat is that exposure to laser light can cause a search-and-rescue mission to be delayed — crew must complete a checklist of items if exposed — or even aborted.

Delaware Online reported from the event that “[l]asers have been a point of contention in Ocean City [MD] for years, with the council deciding to ban the sale of them last summer, and make it illegal to possess a laser pointer in public. Similar laws have gone into effect in New Jersey, but the Coast Guard hasn’t seen a decrease in laser strikes, [Lt. Shawn] Glavan said.”

According to The Dispatch, “Coast Guard Station Atlantic City, where [Glavan’s] MH-65 Dolphin [helicopter] is based, handles around two or three incidents a week involving individuals shining lasers on the aircraft. Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City’s response area covers a large swath of the mid-Atlantic including Ocean City and as far south as Chincoteague.”

From DelawareOnline, CBS Baltimore and The Dispatch

South Africa: Students warned not to bring lasers to school

A South African province has warned students that laser lights “can be considered a harmful weapon that can cause a serious eyesight injury.” Bringing a laser on school premises would be “serious misconduct, which may lead to expulsion,” said a spokesperson for the Gauteng Department of Education.

It was unclear from news reports whether the warning was sent directly to students at school, or if the warning came only as part of a May 4 2015 news story on the website Health24.com. A May 11 search of the Gauteng Department of Education website did not show any announcements, notices, documents, or other information warning about laser pointer hazards.

The spokesperson said that at least two children had permanent eye damage from lasers. One case cited was a South African 11-year-old boy who looked into the laser light after one of his classmates was playing with it. His mother said “He now has a blind spot right in front of him, but still see the sides of the eye [sic].” This case was reported in April 2015. The other South African case involved a child who aimed a laser’s light into his eye and had permanent damage.

Gautang is the most populous province in South Africa. It contains the cities of Johannesburg, Pretoria, Midrand and Vanderbijlpark.

From Health24.com: Story about the warning to learners, and story about the 11-year-old boy being injured.

US: Burning Man desert event bans handheld lasers after 2014 accident

Organizers of the Burning Man event, held each year in the Nevada desert, have banned handheld lasers. The April 15 2015 announcement by Black Rock City, LLC comes after paid and volunteer staff “reported feeling unsafe because they were repeatedly flashed by handheld lasers” at the August 2014 event.

In addition, volunteer Kelli Halston Hoversten suffered two permanent eye injuries during the climactic “Man Burn” in 2014. Her left eye was permanently blinded by a handheld laser, and her right eye was partially blinded by a vehicle-mounted laser. (The injuries significantly affected her. Hoversten “lost her job as an arborist because they can’t insure her now” and she no longer rock climbs or ice climbs recreationally due to the loss of depth perception. She is allowed to drive but “just barely” since her central vision is blocked.)

According to an article about the policy change in the Reno Gazette-Journal, Hoversten will attend the 2015 Burning Man event, in part because of the new laser policy.

The Burning Man ban on handheld lasers applies even to low-powered laser pointers less than 5 mW in power. In a separate blog post comment, Burning Man press official Will Chase wrote: “Because of the difficulty in discerning the difference between dangerous and non-dangerous handheld lasers — and because you don’t want to be wrong — it’s been decided to prohibit all handheld lasers.”

The new webpage with the laser policy also noted that the restriction on handheld lasers “is in line with nearly all major festivals and events in the United States and Europe.”

Non-handheld lasers are still allowed at Burning Man if they are on art installations, “DMV Mutant Vehicles,” or are in theme camps. Such lasers must be disclosed on the art, vehicle or camp application. An Event Safety Officer will review the applications; only safe uses will be allowed.
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US: NY senator wants FDA to ban green laser pointers

Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) on March 15 2015 called for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to stop the sale of “high-powered” green laser pointers. He cited the danger to aircraft pilots. The step appears to have been triggered by the report of three pilots going to hospitals for eye injuries on March 9 2015 in the New York area.

Schumer made the announcement at a Sunday press conference in his Manhattan office, along with four commercial airline pilots who had been illuminated by laser light. One pilot, Gabe Rubin, said he knew of a pilot who “suffered severe eye damage from a green laser pointer [and] will never fly again.”

Schumer said “Green lasers are the weapons of choice being used for evil purposes. We know terrorists are always looking for areas of weak points.”

He is focused on green pointers because they are apparently preferred by pranksters because the green light travels farther, and “because the light spectrum of green is more easily absorbed by the retina and then causes more damage”, according to the senator.

In 2012, Schumer wrote a letter to the U.S. FDA saying that laser pointers’ power should be less than the current 5 mW limit, that FDA should restrict more powerful Class 3B (5-500 mW) and Class 4 (500+ mW) lasers, and that FDA should require warning labels about aiming at aircraft.

From Newsday and CBS New York. The text of Sen. Schumer’s press release is below (click the “Read more…” link).
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US: FDA issues guidance on lasers in toys; wants Class 1 only

On December 19 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a non-binding, not-legally-enforceable guidance document, recommending that toys which contain lasers should be limited to Class 1 output. For visible lasers, this is 0.39 milliwatts, roughly 1/3 times less bright than the Class 2 limit of 1 mW. (Many countries limit laser pointers to Class 2 or no more than 1 mW; the U.S. allows pointers up to 5 mW, or Class 3R.)

In addition to toys with visible beams that are dimmer than laser pointers, the other type of children’s Class 1 laser products are those that have internal, inaccessible lasers. For example, the laser inside a CD or DVD player device is often Class 3B — well above 5 mW. But because the beam cannot be accessed under normal conditions, the entire device is Class 1.

What laser toy products are included


FDA’s guidance is for “children’s toy laser products”, defined by the agency as “a product primarily used as a toy that is manufactured, designed, intended or promoted for novelty or visual entertainment use by children under 14 years of age.” It does not include “laser products that are used in professional or academic settings that may be used by children (for example, laser printers, CD players, educational and science kits).”

To determine if a laser product is a toy, FDA takes into account factors such as the promotion and product graphics (for example, if children are shown playing with the product), the location of sales such as toy stores or websites, and whether features or the nature of the product may indicate it is intended for children.

The agency gives examples of children’s toy laser products:

  • 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 “light sabers”
  • Dancing laser beams projected from a stationary column with bright colors or pictures on the box that might appeal to children
  • Lasers intended for entertainment that create optical effects in an open room with bright colors or pictures on the box that might appeal to children.
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Worldwide: Wicked Lasers to stop shipping high-powered lasers to U.S. on Jan. 1 2015

Wicked Lasers, one of the best known Internet sellers of high-powered lasers, announced November 19 2014 that it will no longer ship lasers above 5 milliwatts to U.S. customers, beginning in 2015. They said other countries would follow “shortly thereafter.”

The sales restriction does not seem to be the result of any particular regulatory actions or other outside forces; instead it appears to be a decision by the “new ownership and management” that was also announced at the same time.

Wicked currently sells handheld lasers up to 2000 milliwatts (2 watts). In the U.S., lasers sold as “pointers” or for pointing purposes must be below 5 milliwatts output power; handheld battery-powered lasers over that power may still be sold legally if they are not “pointers” and if they meet FDA safety requirements for their laser class. All Wicked Lasers sold in 2015 will thus be within the U.S. “pointer” range of power.

The announcement came with a 40% off sale, so the company will still be shipping high-powered lasers through December 31 2014.

Pic 2014-11-22 at 9.25.46 PM

From the email announcement Wicked Lasers sent to customers on Nov. 19 2014 (shown above).

US: Ophthalmalogist calls consumer lasers "weapons", asks Congress for law

USA Today reports that “a leading ophthalmologist and retinal specialist” called high-powered consumer lasers “weapons; powerful weapons that can cause very severe damage and blindness. They are much more powerful than anyone appreciates.”

The October 7 2014 story was a follow-up to an incident at an NFL football game on October 5, when Buffalo Bills players complained of lasers being aimed at them during a game with the Detroit Lions. The NFL and police were said to be investigating.

USA Today’s Martin Rogers wrote that Dr. Robert Josephberg “has lobbied members of Congress for more than a year to discuss criminalizing intentionally dangerous use of laser pointers, to no avail. Josephberg told the newspaper that intentional shining of a laser at someone should be a felony: “There has been a significant increase in medical journals of reports of blindness caused by the lasers. The use seems to be increasing – and so does the power and availability of the pointers. Congress needs to take note.”

In a February 28 2011 story in the New York Times, Josephberg recounted how he saw a high-school student who had a blind spot from a 50 milliwatt green laser pointer. At first he did not believe that lasers were available that could cause such an injury. But he bought a 100 milliwatt laser for $28 online; Times writer Christine Negroni said “he could hardly believe how easy it was.”

A June 2011 article in the magazine of Westchester (NY) Medical Center, where Josephberg works, quoted the doctor as saying “I contacted new Republican Congresswoman Nan Hayworth of the 19th Congressional District, who is an ophthalmologist herself. We are working with her, trying to write a bill that addresses this problem.”

From USA Today, the New York Times and ”Health & Life” magazine from Westchester Medical Center

US: Laser show company has variance revoked for unauthorized audience scanning

A laser light show company had their FDA variance revoked for “a very significant public safety hazard”. This is the first time LaserPointerSafety.com is aware of such a revocation due to unsafe laser light shows, since the variance process began in the late 1970s.

On July 24 2014, the Food and Drug Administration sent a letter to David Fleenor of Epic FX, Inc. of Phoenix, Arizona. It stated that videos posted on the epicfx.com website “documents audience scanning with Class IIIb and/or Class IV lasers. Although much of the audience scanning was done with fanned beams, your projector is not designed nor reported for safe audience scanning. Your variance prohibits audience scanning. Any laser beams projected into the audience directly or indirectly is considered audience scanning. This is in violation of Condition 5 of your variance.” [The page has since been removed, and returns a 404 error.]
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Norway: 100 aircraft incidents one reason for proposal to limit pointers to 1 mW

On May 16 2014, the Norwegian Ministry of Health proposed to ban the sale and use of laser pointers over 1 milliwatt without approval from the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority. The reason given was that “the current approval system, where it is permitted to use and possession of laser pointers in private rooms without approval, has not proved sufficient to prevent potentially dangerous use of laser pointers.”

The ministry received 18 official comments by the August 8 submission deadline. According to Dagens Medisin, “none of the answers are critical [of] mitigation in the use of laser pointers.”

The ban was supported by the country’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the Radiation Protection Authority (NRPA), the Police Directorate and the Customs and Excise department.

The CAA said that there were around 100 incidents each year where lasers were pointed at aircraft in Norway.

If the measure is enacted, it will take effect beginning in 2015.

From Dagens Medisin, in the original Norwegian and in English (Google machine translation). The proposal and links to comments, can be found here in Norwegian, and here in English.

US: Paper's editorial on Ocean City ban concludes it is a "a reasonable approach"

An editorial in the Delmarva Times considers at the pros and cons of curtailing laser pointer sales and possession in Ocean City, Maryland.

The July 27 2014 opinion piece, titled “Public safety versus profit?”, begins with the May 19 2014 emergency legislation passed by Ocean City.

The article notes that the May ban was resisted by merchants who would lose revenue, and by those “unhappy because of the perceived curtailment of personal freedom.” But this is outweighed, in the paper’s opinion, by the risk to eyes: “There are recorded instances of police, random passers-by and municipal employees in Ocean City suffering injury as a result of someone pointing a laser at them.” In addition, the story says, pilots are at risk from the bright light.

The opinion piece then notes that in the two months since the ban, “resort police went from taking 1,000 calls in a three-year period complaining about laser pointer abuse to no incidents this year. This is despite the fact that laser pointers are easily obtained elsewhere, suggesting that without the temptation to make an impulse purchase on the Boardwalk, people will find other ways to amuse themselves.”

The editorial suggests that merchants may be “legally or ethically culpable” for injuries or aircraft crashes caused by lasers that they sold: “Is our economy so focused on profits, we’ve lost track of taking the common welfare into consideration when conducting business?”

The paper’s conclusion is that “ given the persistent and long-term problems caused by laser pointers in Ocean City and elsewhere, particularly other beach resort areas, banning the sale of the devices on the Boardwalk and regulating how they are used — for the purpose of curtailing abuse — seems a reasonable approach.”

From an editorial available online at DelmarvaNow.com

Ireland: Aiming at aircraft to be illegal, after 158 Irish incidents in 2013

A bill making it illegal to deliberately aim lasers into pilots’ eyes was expected to pass the Seanad, Ireland’s senate chamber, in mid-July 2014.

The State Airports (Shannon Group) Bill includes the aiming prohibition; violation can lead to jail time or a fine of up to €50,000 (USD $66,800).

The action comes after 158 laser illuminations of aircraft in 2013, according to the Irish Aviation Authority. Forty-nine of the 2013 incidents involved Air Corps aircraft. From January to mid-July 2014, there were 11 Air Corps-related incidents.

A Fianna Fáil transport spokesperson said the legislation was helpful, but more should be done. He advocated targeting the sale and supply of lasers.

From the Irish Times and RTÉ News

US: Ocean City MD incidents decline after ban on sale, possession

The May 19 2014 ban on laser pointer sale and possession in Ocean City, Maryland, seemed to stop laser pointer misuse, according to a July 14 2014 news report by Brian Shane of Delmarva Now.

After 975 incidents of misuse reported to police over three years, there were no incidents or arrests during the May 19 to July 13 period. The ban was put into effect both because of increasing harassment of persons in the beach town, and because of concerns over pilot safety when the bright beam was directed towards aircraft. Harassment incidents noted in the article included times when tram operators and city bus drivers were targeted.

Ocean City’s attorney noted that “We didn’t want to ban their legitimate use,” saying that laser pointers used in presentation are legal.

In 2010, Ocean City police estimated that 23 retailers had sold more than 30,000 laser pointers at $30-$50. A laser pointer wholesaler said in May that the ban “would hurt the merchants... Say a merchant sells 1,500 in a season, that’s $30,000. That’s a lot of cash to them.”

The news story discussed an injury to 33-year-old Rich Drake in the summer of 2009, who supported the ban. A red beam went into his eye. “Afterward, he noticed his vision took on a pinkish tone, and altered the colors he was seeing. The effects lasted more than a year. Drake already wears glasses and has a condition that makes his eyes extra-sensitive to light. The experience left him shaken.”

From DelmarvaNow.com. The story includes quotes from LaserPointerSafety.com editor Patrick Murphy.

Note that other U.S. beach towns have enacted bans or restrictions on laser pointers, including Ocean City NJ in 2011, Virginia Beach and towns in the Myrtle Beach, SC area. Past LaserPointerSafety.com news stories can be found with the tags Ocean City, Virginia Beach and Myrtle Beach. Text of the 2014 Ocean City MD ordinance is here.

New Zealand: UPDATED - Laser strikes leveling off, 3 months after nationwide laser restrictions

Three months after New Zealand restricted sales of laser pointers over 1 milliwatts, the controls have stopped the rise of laser/aircraft incidents, and have also resulted in limiting consumer access to over-powered lasers.

Associate Health Minister Jo Goodhew said “Early data seems to show that the number of laser strikes on aircraft have plateaued at the same level as last year.” From Jan. 1 to mid-May 2014, there have been 37 laser incidents. This compares with 116 recorded incidents in all of 2013.

The legislation, which took effect March 1 2014, did not make possession of lasers over 1 milliwatt illegal, but it did restrict importation and sales.

Goodhew said over 80 retailers had been visited to remove any over-powered lasers from shelves and to remind sellers of the new restrictions. Tests showed that of 22 lasers suspected of being over 1 milliwatt, 17 were in fact over the limit. Online auction sites have been monitored. Import officials seized 10 lasers as well.

Nine applications have been submitted seeking government approval to import, supply or acquire a laser pointer over 1 mW. Five have been approved and one is being considered. (Presumably the other three were rejected.)

From Voxy.co.nz. Other LaserPointerSafety.com coverage of New Zealand statistics and laws is here.

UPDATED June 26 2014: LaserPointerSafety has received some clarifications from Jo Goodhew’s office:
1) The 37 laser strikes were from January 1 2014 to mid-May 2014.
2) A March 5 2014 article in the New Zealand Herald, which stated there were 119 recorded incidents in all of 2013, is incorrect. The correct number is 116 as stated in the main article above.
3) The statistical analysis of the “plateauing” laser incidents in 2014 was done as follows: The 37 strikes from Jan to mid-May 2014 were extrapolated to give an estimated 104 strikes for 2014. This was then compared with the 116 incidents in 2013. Although this indicates that 2014 might be a decrease compared to 2013, “at this stage we are being cautious and describing it as a ‘plateauing’.” [Note: This statistical analysis would be correct if the rate of lasing is approximately equal throughout all months of the year. However, LaserPointerSafety.com has found that the rate varies with seasons; in the U.S. incidents tend to go up during the Northern Hemisphere summer. If New Zealand’s rate also varies significantly with seasons, then the statistical analysis is flawed. It would be better to compare Jan to mid-May 2013 directly with Jan to mid-May 2014.]

US: UPDATED - Ocean City MD passes emergency ordinance banning sales, possession of laser pointers

The town of Ocean City, Maryland on May 19 2014 passed emergency legislation banning laser pointers. The action was taken on the Monday just before the upcoming Memorial Day weekend holiday.

The action comes after a number of previous measures had failed to stop misuse of lasers.
Click to read more...

US: FDA proposes defacto ban on selling pointers, handhelds above 5 milliwatts

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on May 5 2014 will announce its intent to limit laser pointers and handheld lasers to be below 5 milliwatts. If adopted, this action would impose a defacto ban in the U.S. on the sale to consumers of portable, battery powered lasers of 5 mW or more. Currently, such lasers are available for sale in the U.S. at powers of up to 3 watts (3000 milliwatts) which is 600 times the proposed FDA limit.

Although the agency did not give a reason, such bans have been imposed in other countries in response to climbing numbers of laser illuminations of aircraft as well as reports of eye injuries caused by higher-powered consumer lasers.

The proposal would not make it illegal to own or responsibly use portable, battery-powered lasers of 5 mW or more. However, manufacturers could not make or sell these into general commerce in the U.S.

The agency will accept comments for 90 days (until August 2 2014) on the new proposal. FDA will then review the comments. Based on whether it believes any objections or suggestions are valid, the agency could put the guidance into effect (thus imposing their new interpretation), could submit a revised proposal, or could withdraw its proposal.

What lasers are covered by the proposed 5 mW limit?


FDA does not have direct authority over battery powered portable lasers. For example, the words “pointer” and “handheld” laser do not appear in U.S. laser regulations 21 CFR 1040.10 and 1040.11.

Therefore, to regulate these lasers, the May 5 draft proposes an extension of the FDA’s existing authority to regulate surveying, leveling and alignment (“SLA”) lasers. In the May 5 proposal, FDA asserts that the existing definition of SLA lasers also can applied to lasers with the following design characteristics:

  • Compact size (i.e. small, lightweight)
  • Battery power
  • Ergonomic design to permit hand-held use
  • An aperture in the laser product's protective housing to transmit laser emission into open space
  • Portability to permit use in open spaces or in unrestricted environments
  • Features that utilize the laser’s straight line emission for surveying, leveling, or alignment

According to the FDA, these types of lasers would be affected by the new 5 mW limit:

  • Laser pointers
  • Levels
  • Tools incorporating laser guides
  • Gun sights
  • Target designators
  • Night vision illuminators
  • Visual disruptors

What lasers are NOT covered by the proposed 5 mW limit?


The FDA's proposed 5 mW limit would NOT apply to lasers with the following design characteristics:

  • Predictable, stable power input and output
  • High quality power supply and/or power conditioning components
  • Adjustability of power and wavelength
  • Design that facilitates remote actuation
  • Non-portability
  • Hard wire connection to power mains

From the FDA’s Surveying, Leveling, or Alignment Laser Products - Draft Guidance for Industry and Food and Drug Administration Staff webpage, published online May 2 2014. This webpage includes the procedure for submitting comments to FDA.The FDA’s PDF version of the draft guidance document is here.


Editorial comment from LaserPointerSafety.com: We have previously published our opinion disagreeing with the FDA’s interpretation of “SLA” lasers. The existing regulations are clear on what constitutes “surveying, leveling or alignment” (SLA) lasers. While we understand the FDA’s intent, in our view, they are going about it the wrong way. They are essentially “making it up” by adding characteristics (size, battery power) which are in no way derived from the clear, existing definition of SLA lasers. As support of this position, we have not found any surveying, leveling or alignment lasers which look the same as the majority of laser pointers and handhelds. This topic is discussed in much greater detail on our page describing FDA authority over laser pointers and handheld lasers.

EU: Consumer lasers to be restricted to Class 2 (1 mW) maximum within 24 months

On February 5 2014, the European Union issued a “decision ... on the safety requirements to be met by European standards for consumer laser products." The decision will severely restrict or ban European consumer access to Class 3R, 3B and 4 lasers. For lasers emitting visible beams, this would restrict or ban consumer laser products with an output 1 milliwatt or greater.

(For reference, the full title of the 5 Feb 2014 document is 2014/59/EU: Commission Decision of 5 February 2014 on the safety requirements to be met by European standards for consumer laser products pursuant to Directive 2001/95/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on general product safety Text with EEA relevance. The document is online here.)

Timeframe and who is affected

The EU decision does not appear to directly affect laser product sales or access at this time (early 2014). Instead, it applies to European safety standards "pursuant to Directive 2001/95/EC”, the General Product Safety Directive. These standards would need to be updated to conform with the 5 Feb 2014 EC decision. The expected time is about 24 months.

A member of the IEC Technical Committee 76, the group which sets laser equipment safety standards, told LaserPointerSafety.com that "the standardization organizations are about to be requested to produce a new standard or amend an existing one, implementing/specifying such new requirements. The deadline for an amended or new standard seems to be within 24 months…. For now, it seems that the General Product Safety Directive, the Low Voltage Directive, and the Radio & Telecommunications Terminal Equipment Directive are the targeted ones.”

Once one or more standards are updated to meet the requirements of the 5 Feb 2014 EU decision, the new requirements would then be legally enforceable in the European Union.
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New Zealand: 119 laser/aircraft incidents in 2013 help lead to 2014 restrictions

During 2013, 119 aircraft were illuminated by lasers in New Zealand, according to Associate Health Minister Jo Goodhew. In addition, 17 aircraft were illuminated during the first five weeks of 2014; most were large commercial airplanes. From 2006 to early 2014, there were a total of 391 laser/aircraft incidents in New Zealand.

On March 1 2014, new legislation took effect which severely restricts access to lasers over 1 milliwatts only to those with a legitimate use, such as astronomers.

A Jetstar spokesman said they regarded the pointing of lasers at aircraft as highly irresponsible and welcomed the new legislation.

Air New Zealand spokeswoman Brigitte Ransom said the new regulations were a positive step in mitigating the risks.

From the New Zealand Herald and the Manawatu Standard

Canada: After 461 lasings in 2013, pilots want stricter penalties plus government controls on lasers

The president of Canada’s largest pilots’ group, the Air Canada Pilots’ Association, wants to make aiming a laser at an aircraft a Criminal Code offense. The Aeronautics Act already makes this illegal, with up to five years in prison and a maximum $100,000 fine, but it is not a criminal offense. The group feels their proposal would be a significant deterrence.

In addition, Capt. Craig Blandford said “We’d (also) like to see a control put on them, some kinds of permits or access to these things that’s somehow controlled. I’m not sure to go so far as to say we want them on a prohibited weapons list, but that’s one of the things that we’re pursuing in order to get stricter on control.”

In 2013, there were 461 laser/aircraft incidents reported to Transport Canada, as compared with 357 in 2012. As of February 12, there have been 44 incidents in Canada during 2014.

From the Ottawa Citizen. The story includes additional details on Canada statistics and the pilots’ proposals.

Spain: 10,000 pointers seized during 2013 in Balearic Islands

During 2013, approximately 10,000 laser pointers were seized in the Balearic Islands. Of these, 1,613 were said to be “high-powered” lasers.

The four Mediterranean islands of Majorca, Minorca, Ibiza and Formentara are popular tourist destinations and are the largest of the group. They are administered as a province of Spain.

The seizures began after authorities discovered laser pointers being sold that were unsafe and/or not labeled according to regulations. Also, pilots were reporting that lasers were being aimed to try to blind the aviators.

Officers from the Directorate General of Public Health and Consumption, the Customs and Border Patrol from the Guardia Civil, and La Palma Local Police inspected the origin and labeling of laser pointers being sold in stores.

Laser pointers are only allowed in toys if they are Class 1 (less than 1 milliwatt) and there is a sign warning parents.

Class 2 laser pointers, between 1 and 5 milliwatts, are for professional use only. Lasers above 5 mW are not allowed to be sold and their use is limited.

From the EuroWeeklyNews

New Zealand: NZ restricts handheld lasers over 1 milliwatt

Associate Health Minister Jo Goodhew announced on December 18 2013 that New Zealand’s government has passed new regulations on hand-held high-power laser pointers.

The regulations were based in part on public submissions made in response to a November 2012 Ministry of Health proposal. Submissions were received from organisations including retailers, government agencies, non-government organisations, professional associations, importers, the aviation industry, members of the public and other organisations with an interest in high-power laser pointers. Their suggestions were compiled in a 20-page document which helped guide the new regulations.

"High-power laser pointers can cause eye injuries, even blindness, and skin burns. ACC accepts around 10 claims a year for these injuries," says Mrs Goodhew.

"They can also cause temporary flash blindness, which poses a serious risk if the person affected is a pilot or in charge of a vehicle or equipment. The Civil Aviation Authority reports around 100 laser strike incidents on planes each year.”

The new controls, under Health and Customs legislation, cover the import, supply and acquisition of high-power laser pointers. They do not currently restrict the possession of high-power laser pointers. A bill is before Parliament which, if passed, would make it illegal to be in a public place with a laser pointer without a reasonable excuse.”

"The new controls have been crafted to only target the high risk hand-held laser pointers with a power output of greater than 1 milliwatt,” Goodhew said. “The regulations are in line with Australia’s restrictions and recommendations by the World Health Organization.”
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US: New Jersey governor vetos bill to ban laser pointer sales

A bill to ban the sale of laser pointers over 1 milliwatt, passed by the New Jersey legislature in August 2013, was vetoed on October 17 2013 by Governor Chris Christie.

In his veto message, Christie noted that the New Jersey bill would have gone “well beyond” the federal government’s 5 milliwatt limit for laser pointers. He said there was no criminal use of lasers between 1 and 5 mW in New Jersey. Christie indicated the bill was “arbitrary” and interfered with lawful commerce of pointers typically used in business presentations. (See full text below, after the “Read More…” link.)

The bill was first submitted in November 2010, in response to ongoing problems in Ocean City, N.J. and other beach resort towns where widespread laser pointer sales in boardwalk shops were leading to harassment incidents and aircraft illuminations. The bill, A3169/S418, passed the state Senate on August 19 2013 by a vote of 36-1. It had previously passed the General Assembly on June 24 2013 by a vote of 70-7, with one abstention.
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UK: Pilots want stronger laws, jail, for laser attacks

The British Airline Pilots’ Association has issued an emergency bulletin to BALPA members, on how to avoid adverse consequences of being illuminated by laser pens. In addition, BALPA wants changes in British law so anyone possessing higher-powered lasers without a legitimate reason would be jailed.

The Association says the lasers are too easily available, and that although it is illegal to aim a laser at an aircraft, the punishments have been too lenient: “Slaps on wrists and £150 fines are not enough.”

According to a September 29 2013 article in the Sunday Express, there were 1,570 laser incidents reported to the Civil Aviation Authority in 2012, and 1,911 in 2011. The most prominent airports cited were Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, the East Midlands, Bristol, Heathrow and Gatwick.

From the Sunday Express

New Zealand: Bill to make handheld laser possession in public illegal, passes first reading

A bill making it illegal to possess a handheld laser in a public place without reasonable excuse, unanimously passed its first reading on September 25 2013. Member’s Bill 88-1 would cover all handheld lasers and laser pointers, regardless of power. The full text is here.

The bill was originally introduced November 15 2012. The sponsor, National MP Dr Cam Calder, said the handheld laser pointers “have the potential to cause considerable harm, and put lives at risk when improperly used.” In addition to a penalty of up to three months in prison and up to a NZD $2000 fine (USD $1650), police also would be able to confiscate lasers.

Dr Calder told Parliament that the New Zealand Airline Pilots Association was “very much” in favor of the bill. In 2012, there were over 100 incidents where lasers were aimed at aircraft and moving vehicles.

According to NZ News, “Labor and the Greens supported the bill, although they had concerns the definitions in the bill might be too broad.” Below is the debate on the bill (after the “Read More…” link.) The bill was referred to the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee; their report is due on or before March 25 2014.

In addition, the Ministry of Health is developing regulations addressing the importation and sale of handheld lasers. They are expected to be announced by the end of 2013.
Click to read more...

Canada: Laser strikes up significantly in Edmonton

Incidents of persons aiming lasers at Edmonton police aircraft have risen significantly. As of September 9 2013, there have been 10 such incidents. This compares with 9 incidents in all of 2012, and 4 incidents in 2011.

A police pilot spokesperson said laser users are not reading the packaging which clearly states not to aim at aircraft. After being caught, "There's been a lot of apologies, a lot of regret, some people not realizing the consequences of what they were doing, and then there's been the far opposite -- I can't believe this is happening, this is ludicrous, this isn't serious, it's just a laser pointer."

The pilot also said that a ban is not the answer: "If it's used properly, it's harmless. It's hard to ban something like that, the sale of it completely if 95% of the general public are using it properly."

He noted that not just police aircraft are being lased. Commercial and private aircraft also are at risk.

Edmonton police helicopter pilots are equipped with safety glasses for use during laser illuminations. They have two pair, one to attenuate red laser light and one to attenuate green laser light.

For details on the two most recent Edmonton incidents, on September 6 and 7 2012, see this LaserPointerSafety.com story.

From the Edmonton Journal and Edmonton Sun. Thanks to Keith Murland for bringing this to our attention.

US: FDA asks Customs' help on illegal imports of laser pointers

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is asking U.S. Customs and Border Protection to notify it of all importations of laser products, including small, personal packages sent by postal mail and courier services. FDA suspects that lasers over 5 mW are being illegally sent in packages with labels such as “flashlight” and “toy”. This evades the FDA’s import declaration Form 2877 as well as Customs’ Section 321 allowing duty-free entry of shipments for one person on one day, valued at less than $200.

Using Form 2877, the importer must submit information on each shipment and must affirm that the products comply (or do not comply) with FDA laser regulatory standards. But if a small package omits Form 2877 and is mislabeled (not using the word “laser”), this is an attempt to evade FDA and Customs. FDA specifically notes that such single-package Section 321-type imports do not meet the FDA’s criteria for enforcement discretion for personal importation.

Lasers that FDA is interested in include laser pointers, laser gun sights, laser levels, laser light shows, laser pointer key chains, veterinary laser products, laser illuminators and similar products. If a shipment does not meet FDA requirements, it can then be detained by the FDA and would not be allowed into the country.

From STR Trade Report. Thanks to New Aje Lasers for bringing this to our attention.

US: UPDATED - New Jersey to ban laser pointer sales above 1 mW

A bill to ban the sale of laser pointers over 1 mW has passed the New Jersey General Assembly and Senate, and is awaiting Governor Chris Christie’s signature. The bill, A3169/S418, passed the state Senate on August 19 2013 by a vote of 36-1. It had previously passed the General Assembly on June 24 2013 by a vote of 70-7, with one abstention.

The bill was first submitted in November 2010, in response to ongoing problems in Ocean City, N.J. and other beach resort towns where widespread laser pointer sales in boardwalk shops were leading to harassment incidents and aircraft illuminations.

As passed, the bill states that “No person shall sell or offer to sell a laser pointer that exceeds one milliwatt in output power.” A pointer is further defined as “any device that emits laser light to project a beam that may be used for aiming, targeting or pointing out features.”

The penalty is a civil fine of up to $500 for the first offense, and up to $1000 for each subsequent offense. There are two exemptions: for laser pointers intended to be affixed to a firearm, and for a laser pointer used by or under the supervision of a N.J. licensed healthcare practitioner.

If signed in August 2013 by Gov. Christie, it would take effect December 1 2013.

From CBS New York and New Jersey 101.5. The bill’s legislative history and text is available on the New Jersey Legislature website; use the “Bill Search” feature to search the 2012-2013 legislative session for the keyword “laser”.

UPDATED - October 17 2013: The bill was vetoed on October 17 by Governor Christie. In a statement, he noted that the bill would have gone “well beyond” the federal government’s 5 milliwatt limit for laser pointers. He said there was no criminal use of lasers between 1 and 5 mW in New Jersey. Christie indicated the bill was “arbitrary” and interfered with lawful commerce of pointers typically used in business presentations. The full text of Christie’s veto message is here.

Related LaserPointerSafety.com news stories about Ocean City and New Jersey laser troubles

Switzerland: Police want higher power laser pointers classed as weapons

A Swiss police association has called for regulation of higher power laser pointers as weapons under the Arms Act. This comes after an incident in early August 2013 where policemen at the famed Street Parade in Zurich were injured by a laser, and laser misuse against an officer in early July 2013 during a Basel demonstration.

Since 2011, laser pointers above 5 milliwatts are prohibited in Switzerland. The Swiss Federal Office of Public Health is working on proposals to classify laser pointers as weapons and will present these by 2014.

From 20 Minuten (original German text and Google-translated into English)

US: UPDATED - Laser pointer restrictions have made a "huge" positive difference in Myrtle Beach

The first summer after Myrtle Beach, SC, passed an ordinance restricting the sale of laser pointers to minors, and restricting the strength to less than 1 milliwatt, there have been “remarkably fewer complaints than we did last year,” according to a spokesperson for the city. “The ordinance seems to have made a huge difference.”

He said that lasers last year, in 2012, were a “fad”. Visitors to the city purchased them from vendors as an impulse purchase

Horry County, which also passed a similar law, has seen similar results. “So far this year, there has been a large decrease in calls concerning the usage of green lasers and zero citations have been issued,” said Lt. Robert Kegler of the Horry County Police.

In the summer of 2012, there were 70 reports of lasers being aimed at aircraft near Myrtle Beach International Airport. The equivalent number for 2013 is not known.

Both ordinances state that adults improperly using lasers will be charged with assault and battery; the penalty is a fine of up to $500 and up to 30 days in jail. They will also be held liable for any damage or personal injury. Minors improperly using lasers will be prosecuted in Family Court, and their parents can be held responsible with a fine of up to $500 and up to 30 days in jail.

From Myrtle Beach Online and CarolinaLive.com

UPDATED September 3 2013: A letter from Coast Guard officials had some additional information: “Notable progress has been made, evident through a recent spring break sting operation that found no businesses selling lasers along the beachfront. There were a of [sic] total 68 laser incidents reported to the FAA in 2012 in the greater Myrtle Beach area. So far in 2013, the Coast Guard has not had any of its aircraft illuminated by lasers in the area. We applaud the efforts made by local leaders and sincerely appreciate the community’s support of the initiative.” The August 30 2013 letter was signed by Capt. Ric Rodriguez, Commander, Coast Guard Sector Charleston and by Commander Gregory Fuller, Commanding Officer, Coast Guard Air Station Savannah. From Myrtle Beach Online

US: FDA proposes amending Federal laser manufacturer regulations

The Food and Drug Administration is proposing to amend the Federal Performance Standard for Laser Products (21 CFR 1040.10 and 1040.11). FDA says the changes are intended to 1) put U.S. standards closer to international IEC 60825 standards, 2) to help manufacturers lower costs, 3) to improve FDA’s effectiveness in regulating laser products and 4) to better protect and promote the public health.

The proposal was issued in the Federal Register on June 24 2013. The public may send comments to FDA until September 23 2013. FDA will then evaluate the comments, make any changes as a result, and at a future date will put the amendments into effect.

For consumer lasers, the most significant proposal is to create a new category of specific purpose lasers, “children’s toy laser products.” FDA says these could include lasers intended for creating entertaining optical effects, dancing laser beams projected from a stationary column, spinning tops which project laser beams, or lasers mounted on toy guns for “aiming.” FDA defines such toys as “a product that is manufactured, designed, intended or promoted for use by children under 14 years of age.”

The laser inside such a toy would be restricted to Class I (less than 1 mW for visible light). This is because FDA is concerned that if the toy were broken or disassembled, a higher power laser could harm a child.
Click to read more...

Sweden: Ban/restrictions proposed on laser pointers 1 mW or more

Sweden’s national government has proposed banning “powerful laser pointers,” defined as handheld Class 3R, 3B and 4 lasers. This would make it illegal from November 1 2013 to import, produce, acquire, possess, use, transfer or lease any handheld laser 1 mW and above, without a permit. Swedes who currently own laser pointers 1 mW and above could not possess them after December 31 2013.

Some countries such as Australia and the U.K. have restrictions on lasers starting at 1 mW (3R, 3B and 4), while others such as the U.S. have restrictions starting at 5 mW (3B and 4 only).

The Swedish government invites comments on the proposal, EU notification text, number 2013/0365/S-X00M. This can be done up until October 4 2013 by anyone, whether a national of Sweden or not. At the EU notification link, there are additional links to obtain language-specific versions of the proposal; for example, the English draft text of the proposed laser pointer ban.

Comments can be sent to the EU Contact point Directive 98/34 at:
Pic 2013-07-23 at 6.11.42 PM
or send a fax to +32 229 98043. Also, Martin Lindgren of the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority has requested a copy so he is aware of the comments as well:
Pic 2013-07-23 at 6.07.08 PM

Additional details are below.
Click to read more...

UK: More than 220 laser attacks in two years in West Midlands, says CAA

From mid-2011 to mid-2013, there were more than 220 pilot reports of laser beams in the West Midlands area, according to a Freedom of Information Act request reported by the Birmingham Mail on July 3 2013.

This is roughly one-third of the 700 incidents over the same time frame that involved aircraft in or above the West Midlands. (The 480 non-laser incidents included bird strikes, emergency landings, a bomb threat, a dog on the runways and closure of an airfield because of a flying kite.)

On one occasion in July 2011, four different lasers were aimed at a police helicopter in a single incident.

The British Airline Pilots’ Association asked for prison sentences for persons caught aiming at aircraft, as well as regulations over the sale of high-powered lasers.”

According to West Midlands police, laser attacks on their helicopter have fallen in months prior to July 2013.

From the Birmingham Mail. See also a related LaserPointerSafety.com article on BALPA’s laser pointer suggestions.

UK: Pilots want jail for persons aiming laser pens at aircraft

The British Airline Pilots’ Association warned about the hazards of laser pens directed at aircraft, and called for prison sentences for the perpetrators. They noted that there were more than 1,500 incidents in 2012, with “only a handful of those responsible” being prosecuted.

BALPA general secretary Jim McAuslan asked for a government cross-agency summit to address the problem. BALPA requested stronger regulations restricting the sale of high-powered lasers, more prosecutions, and action taken through trading standards.

He said that hotspots include airports at Manchester, Glasgow, Liverpool and Heathrow.

From ITV London and ITV Granada

New Zealand: UPDATED - Gov't to restrict handheld laser pointers

The government of New Zealand will introduce new legislation to restrict higher-power handheld lasers. The law is being drafted as of May 2013 and should take effect by the end of 2013. It will be undertaken under the authority of the Customs and Excise Act of 1996 and the Health Act of 1956.

The new law will not cover low-power lasers below 1 milliwatt which are used for presentations, surveying or gun sights. It will control importation, and will restrict use of higher-power handhelds to “authorized users who have a legitimate purpose such as astronomers, researchers and the NZ Defence Force”, according to an Associate Health Minister.
Click to read more...

US: South Carolina to ban laser pointer possession by minors

Possession of lasers over 1 milliwatt by minors would be illegal, under a proposal introduced February 26 2013 in the South Carolina House of Representatives. On April 18 2013, H. 3609 passed the House by a vote of 81 to 8.

The bill was introduced by Representative Liston Barfield. He represents Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach, resort towns which have been plagued with incidents of laser pointer harassment by youths and others. In 2012, there were more than 70 area incidents where laser pointers were aimed at aircraft, including Coast Guard search-and-rescue operations that were abandoned due to fear of laser exposure.
Click to read more...

US: North Wildwood NJ to ban laser pointer sales and possession

The city of North Wildwood, New Jersey, introduced an ordinance on April 16 2013 to ban the sale and possession of laser pointers above 1 milliwatt. The proposed penalty for sale or possession is a $500 fine for the first offense, rising to a fine up to $1,250 or up to 30 days in jail.

This was done after about 40 complaints to police in 2012, most of which "turned out to be kids playing with the laser pointers" according to the deputy police chief. The U.S. Federal Aviation Authority had also contacted the city regarding lasers pointed at aircraft. The ordinance language notes that "the illegal use of laser pointers creates risks and dangers for those targeted by the beam of the laser as well as for the residents of and visitors to the city of North Wildwood.”

Ordinance 1622 had its "first reading" on April 16, meaning it did not become law. The second reading, and possible adoption as a law, was set for the City Council meeting the evening of May 7 2013.
Click to read more...

World: Summary of papers presented at International Laser Safety Conference 2013

Every two years, world experts in laser safety gather at the International Laser Safety Conference. Below is an overview of 15 laser pointer, laser show and laser/aviation safety papers presented at the 2013 ILSC meeting in Orlando. The papers are available in the 2013 ILSC Proceedings, a 390-page book available from the Laser Institute of America. All page references below are to the Proceedings book.

Laser pointer hazards for pilots


  • A study of the actual output of 40 laser pointers, with powers up to 1.5 Watts, showed significant differences between measured and calculated hazard levels. In some cases, the actual hazard measured at some spots inside the beam was three times the estimated hazard. This is due to the laser output not being smooth in all cases, but instead the beams having “hot spots”. The study also showed that windscreens reduced the beam irradiance -- which is safer for pilots -- from 5% to 60%. (Note however that the McLin study described below showed that windscreens also spread the beam and thus increase glare.)
“Laser Pointer Hazards for Pilots and Drivers of Public Transportations”, Klaus Dickmann and Nils Nitzschke, Laser Center FH Muenster, Steinfurt, Germany, pages 289-298.

  • A discussion of how being inside the Nominal Ocular Hazard Distance of a laser beam does NOT mean instant blindness for pilots and others.For example, consider a 1 Watt, 1 milliradian laser where the recommended safety distance (NOHD) is 733 feet. If possible, you should be at least 733 feet from the laser before exposing an eye to the direct beam. What is the actual hazard? At 232 feet from this laser, there is a 50/50 chance of the beam causing a barely observable retinal lesion under laboratory conditions where the laser and eye are fixed in place. Due to motion of the aircraft and hand-holding the laser, the chance of a retinal lesion is likely to be less. The distance from 232 feet (“ED50”) out to the NOHD at 733 feet is a known “safety factor” where the chance of retinal injury decreases even further. At the NOHD there is a “vanishingly small risk of hazardous exposure” (Sliney, 2013). Police and other first responder pilots can use this information to better weigh the risk of laser exposure to laser light vs. the benefits of completing a mission (rescuing a person, apprehending criminals, etc.). This presentation also discusses ways to make flight near lasers safer for pilots. A PDF file of all the slides presented is here.
“Better Informing the Public of Laser Exposure Injury Potential”, Patrick Murphy and Greg Makhov, International Laser Display Association, Florida, US, page 288 (one-paragraph abstract only, without details -- no paper available in the Proceedings).

For additional ILSC 2013 papers, click the “read more” link.
Click to read more...

UK: Seizure of 7,000+ laser pointers illustrates control problems

In 2011, the U.K. Health Protection Agency analyzed samples of laser pointers seized from one company suspected of import violations. HPA found that 96% of the working pointers were above the U.K.’s legal power limit of 1 milliwatt.

7,378 lasers were seized, along with 8,780 parts from which lasers could be assembled. It was estimated that the company sold over 35,000 laser pointers from 2009-2011, generating income of over £1,000,000 (USD $1,600,000).

Techyun Hii, 33, pleaded guilty to four charges of laser pointer violations and a fifth charge of unsafe power chargers. He was sentenced to a 180 day jail term suspended for 18 months, and to 300 hours of community service. The lasers were later incinerated in a hospital’s furnace.

Lead author John O’Hagan detailed the HPA’s findings in a paper presented at the March 2013 International Laser Safety Conference in Orlando. The case had previously been reported by LaserPointerSafety.com.
Click to read more...

Australia: Ban on laser pointers has been a "detriment" to safety

A scientific paper published in March 2013, which analyzed laser pointers purchased in Australia, has concluded that the country's stringent laws against lasers may have backfired: "...the prohibition laws may have detrimentally affected laser pointer safety within Australia without overtly impacting availability....the one thing more hazardous than a correctly labelled high power laser pointer is a high power laser pointer labelled as safe."

The author, Trevor Wheatley, is chair of the Standards Australia SF-019 Committee on laser safety. He studied 41 lasers purchased online in 2012 that were claimed by the sellers to be legal -- lower than the Australian import limit of 1 milliwatt. Most cost less than AUS $20.

Wheatley found that 95% of these pointers were illegal under Australian law, with outputs above 1 mW. Of the 41, 78% were between 5 mW and 100 mW. (5 mW is generally taken to be the highest safe power for a general purpose laser pointer.)

Based on Wheatley's research, "...there would appear to be a greater than 50% chance that someone attempting to buy a 'safe' laser pointer would inadvertently get a hazardous laser." Further, 100% of the tested laser pointers below $20 "would represent prohibited weapons in most Australian states."

From other statistics, the paper states that "availability has not been significantly impacted." In 2007/2008 there were 648 incidents involving lasers pointed at aircraft. In 2010/2011, well after the import and possession restrictions, the number of incidents had increased to 828.
Click to read more...

US: Retina specialist says laser pointer crackdown needed to avoid serious injury

“Swift action” is necessary to prevent serious injury from high-powered laser pointers, according to Dr. Robert Josephburg, a retinal specialist at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla N.Y. A Yahoo Sports story says that Josephburg warned Congress about the danger, although no specifics of the warning or date were given.

The Yahoo Sports story noted that laser pens are often misused by European soccer fans. In late February 2013, two world-famous players, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, were targeted during a pair of games.

Pic 2013-03-29 at 7.45.47 PM Pic 2013-03-29 at 7.45.55 PM
Ronaldo (left) and Messi, illuminated by lasers during matches between Real Madrid and Barcelona

Josephburg told Yahoo Sports that athletes could be especially at risk, since lasers could cause serious damage from an exposure of a few seconds. He said “If I was a ball player I would be terrified. I only hope that Congress acts on this before some real harm is done.”

Lasers with powers of over 50 milliwatts are dangerous, Josephburg said, and can have serious effects almost immediately. The only effective deterrent is to punish possession or use of high-powered pointers, according to Josephburg: “There is simply no need for a regular person to have one of these.”

From Yahoo Sports

US: North Myrtle Beach bans sale of lasers over 1 mW, and bans possession by minors in detailed new law

Lasers and laser pointers over 1 milliwatt cannot be sold in the city of North Myrtle Beach, SC, and minors cannot possess such lasers. The City Council passed the ordinance on February 18 2013. It provides a penalty of up to $500 or 30 days in jail, plus confiscation of any laser over 1 milliwatt.
Click to read more...

US: UPDATED - Maryland bill reintroduced to raise fines on pointer/aircraft misuse

Maryland state delegate Sam Arora and state senator J.B. Jennings in November 2012 re-introduced a bill to raise fines for persons convicted of laser pointer misuse. The fines would rise from $500 at present, to up to $2,500 and up to three years in prison.
Click to read more...

US: Myrtle Beach area proposed ban on laser pointer sales

The Horry (South Carolina) County Council on November 14 2012 introduced an ordinance to restrict laser pointers. This is in response to ongoing problems in Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach, and other Horry County jurisdictions.

The ordinance would make it illegal to sell lasers over 1 milliwatt, or to sell any green laser to persons under 18. Adults misusing lasers would be charged with assault and battery, with a fine of up to $500, up to 30 days in jail, and being held liable for any damage or personal injury. Minors misusing lasers would be prosecuted in Family Court, plus parents would be held responsible and could be fined or jailed.

In addition, a warning would be required with the sale of every laser pointer.

Under county procedure, it takes three “readings” at council meetings to pass an ordinance. Based on the council’s schedule, the earliest it could be passed would be in January 2013.

From CarolinaLive. This is part of continuing stories at LaserPointerSafety.com about ongoing problems at Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach.

New Zealand: UPDATED - Laser pointer bill introduced by MP

New Zealand National List MP Dr Cam Calder has introduced a bill making it illegal to possess a hand-held laser in a public place without a legitimate reason. The bill will go on the agenda for a first reading, and is likely to be debated in the next three weeks.

The bill does not appear to have any laser power limitation; thus, even possession of a laser less than 1 milliwatts (legal in most countries) would be banned under the proposed legislation.

The key text is as follows:

“13B Possession of hand-held lasers
“(1) Every person is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 months or a fine not exceeding $2,000 who, in any public place, without reasonable excuse, has any hand-held laser in his or her possession.
“(2) Any constable may without warrant seize and detain any hand- held laser which there is reasonable ground to suppose is in contravention of subsection (1) of this section.
“(3) On convicting any person of an offence against subsection (1) of this section, the Court may order that the hand-held laser be forfeited to the Crown.
“(4) In this section hand-held laser means any hand-held device, designed or adapted to emit a laser beam.”


From MSNNZ News and CamCalder.co.nz. The full text of the bill, including an introductory explanatory section, can be downloaded as a PDF file.

UPDATED September 25 2013: The bill unanimously passed its first reading. LaserPointerSafety.com has an article on this, plus a transcript of the debate.

New Zealand: Proposed options for controlling laser pointers, after 100 incidents in 2011

The New Zealand Ministry of Health issued a consultation document with proposed options for controlling high-powered laser pointers. This is in response to incidents, including about 100 laser strikes on aircraft which were reported to the Civil Aviation Authority in 2011.

New Zealand does not have laws restricting the import, use and sale of high-powered laser pointers.

The deadline for commenting is December 14 2012 at 5 pm. The New Zealand laser pointer consultation document can be downloaded from here.

Feedback from the consultation will help the government determine its final proposals.

From Voxy.co.nz

New Zealand: Pilots want laser pointers prohibited

Officials with the New Zealand Air Line Pilots’ Association said they want a ban on Class 3 laser pointers, similar to Australian restrictions that classify the devices as weapons.

The pilots expressed concern following the September 2012 conviction of a teenager who aimed a green pointer at three commercial aircraft and a police helicopter in January 2012.

The NZALPA president said “It has reached a stage where any member of the public can purchase a commercial grade laser and do what they please with it.”

From Radio New Zealand and Voxy

US: Sen. Schumer asks FDA to overhaul laser regulations

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called for an overhaul of “lax and outdated” federal regulations on lasers and laser pointers. In a letter to the Food and Drug Administration released on August 5 2012, Schumer said the limit on laser pointers’ power should be less than the current 5 milliwatt limit. He also asked FDA to restrict the sale of more powerful Class 3B and 4 lasers sold for “recreational” purposes. Finally, he requested that FDA require warning labels stating that aiming at aircraft is a federal offense.

From the Associated Press via the Wall Street Journal. To read the text of Schumer’s letter to the FDA, and his press release, click the Read More link below.
Click to read more...

US: Myrtle Beach considering further laser regs; current ones aren't working

Laser pointer regulations passed in 2011 in Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach have not proven effective in stopping laser misuse, especially against aircraft. There were 24 laser incidents in July reported at Myrtle Beach International Airport. Two Coast Guard helicopter missions were cut short due to laser interference.

A meeting was held with local officials, including representatives from Myrtle Beach, the Coast Guard, the Chamber of Commerce and the Horry County Council, to discuss options. The director of airports said that existing ordinances are not enough. He wants “a way to look at regulating the size and power of lasers that are sold in our community and region.”

Rather than local cities passing ordinances, one approach is for county-wide regulations. The topic will continue to be discussed at future county council meetings.

From CarolinaLive. This is part of continuing stories at LaserPointerSafety.com about ongoing problems at Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach.

US: Myrtle Beach area man hit in eye; wants laser ban

It is a “war zone” on the beach, according to a man from Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, a seaside town south of Myrtle Beach. Dwain Patrick told WPDE-TV news that “green lasers [are] being shined on everything that moved.” He was hit in the left eye and lost vision for about two hours. It was immediate and painful, Patrick said.

A vacationer staying in a local campground says the park banned green lasers. Patrick has written to the Horry County Council and has spoken at a local Public Safety Committee meeting to get rental property owners to ban them. He says “They serve no useful function at all. In fact, the only function they have is to harass people.”

Patrick would like a complete ban on lasers.

In the city of North Myrtle Beach, there have been 10 warning tickets issued between November 2011 and July 2012 for violations of a local laser pointer ordinance.

From CarolinaLive. This is part of continuing stories at LaserPointerSafety.com about ongoing problems at Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach.

Australia: Illegal laser imports up 60%; threaten aircraft safety

The following is from a press release issued July 24 2012 by the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service.


Illegal imports of laser pointers explode - 24 July 2012

Customs and Border Protection is warning travellers and online shoppers about Australia’s tough laws prohibiting the import of laser pointers.

This follows a dramatic increase in the number of these dangerous items being seized by officers at the border.

In the past year, the number of laser pointers seized by Customs and Border Protection officers at the Sydney International Mail Centre alone has increased by close to 60 per cent, from around 9,000 to over 14,000.

Pic 2012-07-24 at 5.17.08 AM
Australian import officers spill out a container full of confiscated packages of illegally-imported laser pointers.


Importing laser pointers greater than one milliwatt in intensity is prohibited in Australia without a permit.

“The sheer volume of these importations suggests that people do not understand the threat these items pose to safety, particularly to commercial aircraft,” said National Manager Cargo Operations, Jagtej Singh.

Customs and Border Protection officers are trained to detect prohibited and restricted items from the millions of items which arrive each week.

“If you try and import laser pointers without a permit, there’s a high possibility they’ll be found by Customs and Border Protection, seized, and you may even face fines of up to $275,000.”

Customs and Border Protection has produced a video clip outlining the risks being taken by people who inadvertently or deliberately breach the laws on laser pointers.

It can be viewed on the agency’s
YouTube channel.


According to this video, “Customs officers screen all incoming mail imported into Australia, and items such as laser pointers WILL show up on X-ray.”


Media enquiries: Customs and Border Protection Media (02) 6275 6793



From Australia Customs and Border Protection

UK: UPDATED - Selling illegal laser pens could net a 3-month sentence for UK man

A man who sold hundreds of lasers, illegal under British law, was in court facing a possible three-month sentence for “supplying lasers and other goods that flouted safety regulations.”

33-year-old Techyun Hii ran Sky Laser Pointers from his home in Ribbleton, a suburb of Preston, Lancashire. In 2011, Lancashire Trading Standards officials found he had lasers that were up to 150 milliwatts, substantially over the U.K. limit of 1 milliwatts for laser pens sold to the public through an eBay store. Three packages were being sent to Greece, just before the Greek riots. He had been warned twice before about U.K. laws and his obligations.

In April 2012, investigators placed a test purchase which led to Hii’s arrest. He pleaded guilty to five counts of selling illegal goods, and will be sentenced July 4 2012.

From the Lancashire Evening Post

UPDATED November 25 2012: Hii was sentenced to a 180 day jail term, suspended for 18 months and was ordered to carry out 300 hours of unpaid work. The lasers sere destroyed by burning them in a hospital’s furnace. From the Lancashire Evening Post.

UPDATED March 22 2013: The case was the subject of a paper in the Proceedings of the 2013 International Laser Safety Conference, “Laser Product Assessment for Lancashire County Council Trading Standards Service” by John O’Hagan, Michael Higlett and Marina Khazova, pp. 181-188. A summary of the paper is here at LaserPointerSafety.com.

US: Maryland "Laser Safety Act" passes House, goes to Senate

The text in blue, below, is from a press release sent March 26 2012 by Maryland State Delegate Sam. Arora. It has been slightly edited to re-arrange a few sentences.

UPDATE, November 20 2012: The bill did not pass. According to Arora, it “passed the House of Delegates in March [2012] but ultimately failed to reach a vote in the state Senate during the final hours of the regular legislative session, when a budget showdown between the two chambers effectively killed scores of bills that were scheduled for votes.” It was reintroduced in November 2012, as discussed in this story.



AIRCRAFT LASER ATTACK BILL PASSES MARYLAND HOUSE, MOVES TO SENATE

Bill Would Punish Shining Laser Pointers at Pilots in Flight

ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- A measure aimed at curbing a dangerous trend targeting aircraft passed the Maryland House of Delegates Monday afternoon and now will head to the state Senate for approval.
 
The bill, the
Laser Safety Act (HB 130), sponsored by Maryland State Delegate Sam Arora (D-Montgomery Co.), seeks stiffer penalties for people who shine laser pointers into aircraft cockpits, potentially blinding pilots in flight. The Act would carry a penalty of up to three years in prison and/or a fine of up to $2,500. Current law only permits for a $500 fine for “misuse of a laser pointer”.
Click to read more...

US: Georgia bill would ban aiming at police and aircraft

Georgia Senate Bill 441 passed the Senate Feb. 27 2012 by a vote of 43 to 4 (with 5 Senators not voting and 4 Senators excused). As of March 21 2012, SB 411 is under consideration by the House.

The proposed bill would 1) establish the offense of unlawful pointing of a laser device at a law enforcement officer, and 2) prohibit aiming a laser pointer or projecting a laser on or at an aircraft or the flight path of an aircraft. The legislative history of the bill, including the full text of the Senate and House versions, is at the Georgia General Assembly website. We have also put the full text of the House version on the U.S. laws page here at LaserPointerSafety.com.

One interesting point is that the bill contains an exemption for “laser or laser pointer airspace uses that have been reviewed and approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.” This is a broader provision than the recently passed U.S. law, which only permits certain FAA-reviewed uses such as research and development.

In the view of LaserPointerSafety.com, the Georgia bill’s language is more flexible and still maintains safety, since they leave it up to the FAA to determine what outdoor laser uses are approved (technically, “non-objected”).

UK: 1,909 laser incidents in 2011; renewed calls for laser ban or restriction

The March 15 2012 arrest of a Keighley, West Yorkshire man has led to renewed interest in U.K. laser pointer incidents, and potential restrictions. Kris Hopkins, Member of Parliament from Keighley, said there should be stronger punishment for laser misuse, and that government should consider regulating laser purchasers.

In 2011, a law was introduced by MP Greg Mulholland (Leeds North West), to make it a criminal offense to shine a laser into an aircraft cockpit.

According the Civil Aviation Authority, there were 1,909 laser incidents in the U.K. in 2011, compared with three in 2008. [Note from LaserPointerSafety.com: The 2008 statistic is almost certainly incorrect. A previous LaserPointerSafety.com news item from BBC News reported 27 lasers were used against commercial aircraft in 2007, and there were 80 cases from January through September 2008.]

From the Bradford Telegraph and Argus

UAE: Laser pointers seized, destroyed in Dubai

Officials from Dubai’s Department of Economic Development (DED) seized “laser-pointer items” being sold at one or more local markets, according to the newspaper Emirat Alyoum. The lasers were among items such as lighters shaped as pistols and inflatable toys said to be a threat to security and to health. The laser could cause burns to the body and “is prohibited trading in general, affecting the navigational systems for aircraft”, according to a DED director. He warned dealers against importing or marketing such items, saying violators could be fined and even shut down if they are caught again.

The newspaper report did not have specifics about the lasers’ numbers, power, color, etc.

From Emirat Alyoum. English-language reports from Emirates 24/7 and Bikya Masr.

US: Obama signs bill making aiming laser pointers at aircraft a federal crime

President Barack Obama signed a bill on February 14 2012 which contains a provision making it a federal crime to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft, or the flight path of an aircraft. This new law is contained in Section 311 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (H.R. 658).

Violation can result in a fine and/or imprisonment up to five years. The bill does provide a few exemptions for research and development, flight testing, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Homeland Security. The only exemption for ordinary citizens is when “using a laser emergency signaling device to send an emergency distress signal.”

The laser pointer misuse prohibition becomes part of the United States Code; specifically, Title 18, Chapter 2, new section 39A: “Aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft”. The text of the new law is here.

From AVStop News

New Zealand: 100 incidents in 2011; pilots want Class 3 laser imports banned

The New Zealand Air Line Pilots Association (NZALPA) has called for a ban on importation of Class 3 and 4 lasers. President Glen Kenny said that laser “strikes” have been increasing and “It has reached a stage where any member of the public can purchase a commercial grade laser and do what they please with it.” A ban would mean that only lasers with powers below 1 milliwatt could be imported for the general public.

There are currently no restrictions on the public’s ownership of lasers in New Zealand.

NZALPA’s technical director Stu Julian told TV ONE that if the laser incidents continue, they could cause a crash due to distracting a pilot when they have minimal reaction time.

According to the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority, there were 100 laser pointer incidents in 2011, with 40 of those at the Auckland airport. A spokesperson for the Eagle police helicopter said the crew had lasers pointed at them “all the time. It happens fairly often and it’s a real risk to the crew.”

From MSN NZ, TVNZ, Scoop NZ, and the New Zealand Herald. The text of a Feb. 7 2012 press release from NZALPA is below (after the “Read More” link). Thanks to Mark Wardle of NZALPA for bringing this to our attention. The New Zealand Herald link has a list of selected New Zealand laser incidents. To find all aviation incidents from New Zealand reported at LaserPointerSafety.com, click here.
Click to read more...

UK: MP wants action to reduce laser pen attacks at Leeds Bradford Airport

Leeds North West Member of Parliament Greg Mulholland is concerned that laser pen attacks near Leeds Bradford International Airport have not been reduced in 2011. In a January 3 2012 news story, Mulholland said he would be asking what additional steps the Civil Aviation Authority can take, and if they will develop a plan to deal with the laser incidents.

Figures for 2010 showed about 100 laser pen attacks on flights taking off or landing at the Yeadon-based airport. Figures from January 2011 through October 2011 showed 80 such attacks, indicating that the 2011 total would be similar to 2010.

A CAA spokesperson said laser pen misuse in Britain was not letting up in 2011: “The people who are carrying out these attacks are either still ignorant of the dangers high-powered lasers present to the safe operation of an aircraft, or they simply do not care.”

Mulholland said “a blanket ban on laser pointers is not the way forward because of the effect it would have on legitimate users. Something does, however, need to be done to address this serious ongoing issue.”

From the Bradford Telegraph and Argus

US: FDA updates "Red List" of banned laser importers and products

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued an update to its Import Alert document, also known as the “Red List”. This is a list of importers whose products do not comply with U.S. laser performance standards and/or FDA reporting requirements. Reasons for detaining a product include:

  1. The laser product does not have a permanently attached warning logotype label;
  2. The laser product output exceeds 5 milliwatts;
  3. The laser product fails to contain certification or identification information either on the product or in the instructions for use;
  4. The laser product fails to contain instructions for safe use;
  5. The product class or output information on the laser product's warning logotype label is different from that in the instructions for use; and/or
  6. A product report for the laser product has not been submitted.

Products which can be Detained Without Physical Examination (DWPE) include laser pointers, laser gunsights, laser pens, laser light show projectors, laser special effects, laser levels, toy guns with lasers, laser pointer key chains, and similar products.

It is unclear what effect the FDA’s import restrictions have on supplies. For example, the well-known company Wicked Lasers is listed multiple times as being banned from importing “All laser products and all products containing lasers.” However, a company representative on December 22 said that Wicked does ship to the U.S. and there should be “no issues getting a laser into the U.S.”

Violating companies are listed as follows.

  • Canada: 2 companies shipping from a total of 3 addresses
  • China: 51 companies shipping from a total of 57 addresses
  • Hong Kong: 9 companies shipping from a total of 9 addresses
  • Japan: 1 company shipping from a total of 2 addresses
  • Taiwan: 25 companies shipping from a total of 28 addresses
  • United Kingdom: 1 company shipping from 1 address

From the December 20 2011 update to the FDA Red List

US: North Myrtle Beach passes laser pointer restrictions

The city of North Myrtle Beach on November 21 2011 gave a second reading, and thus final approval, to the the Laser Pointer & Use Restriction Ordinance. It bans the sale to and possession of laser pointers for persons under the age of 17. In addition, it prohibits “certain behaviors and uses of laser pointers, such as the directing of laser beams at persons, animals or vehicles.” According to a city spokesperson, “The ordinance also provides responsible exemptions for the legitimate use of lasers for industrial, educational and commercial purposes.” Violators could be fined up to $500 and 30 days in jail.

From the North Myrtle Beach Times and CarolinaLive. For additional background, see other LaserPointerSafety.com stories on problems and ordinances in North Myrtle Beach and its neighboring city Myrtle Beach, plus resort cities Ocean City, and Virginia Beach.
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UK: BALPA wants lasers classified as weapons and banned EU-wide

The British Airline Pilots’ Association called for a ban on laser “weapons” that have contributed to over 1600 incidents thus far in 2011. The ban would be similar to ones in Australia. They also urge passage of a European Union law that would criminalize the aiming of lasers at aircraft.

From The Independent and the Daily Mail
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Europe: 4,266 laser incidents; harmonized criminal laws sought

There were 4,266 laser-aircraft incidents in Europe in 2010, according to air traffic agency Eurocontrol. One hundred twenty airports in 32 European nations were affected. In several cases, pilots who were temporarily blinded passed control of the aircraft to the co-pilot. There have also been cases where lasers were aimed at airport control towers.

In 2008, there were 1,048 European incidents.

A Eurocontrol safety expert said “Preventing and mitigating the current problem requires a harmonized approach throughout Europe. We need the full involvement of regulators, judicial authorities, police, airlines and their associations, air navigation service providers, laser manufacturers who must understand how serious the problem is, as well as research institutes.”

Most European countries do not have specific laws against aiming lasers at aircraft. Eurocontrol stated they should be subject to the same restrictions as firearms, covering the purchase, transportation and use of lasers.

German politician Volker Kauder said that high-powered lasers should be treated as weapons under the Geman Arms Act.

From the Washington Post

US: Va. Beach wants state of Va. to ban aiming lasers at airplanes

The commander of Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach is working with the City Council to ask the state of Virginia to ban the aiming of lasers at airplanes. This is a result of 10 to 15 laser incidents with Oceana pilots in 2010 and 2011. He said “It’s, at best, a very momentary distraction for pilots. At worst... it can actually cause retinal damage."

The City Council is considering a local law to make malicious shining of lasers a Class 1 misdemeanor (up to a year in jail and a $2500 fine). According to PilotOnline.com, in 1998 Virginia Beach “was one of the first in the nation to make it a crime to shine lasers at police officers or into people’s eyes.”

The city is also planing an educational campaign to inform people about the law and laser dangers.

Commenter “Lost_Sailor” said there already is a Virginia state code, 5.1-22, “Interference with operation of aircraft,” to address the problem. He linked to a 2002 Virginia Court of Appeals case upholding the conviction of a man for using a “million candlelight spotlight” to illuminate a police helicopter. The man unsuccessfully argued that he had no intent to interfere with the helicopter; he wanted to view its registration number for a noise complaint. The man also unsuccessfully argued that his spotlight did not interfere with the operation of the aircraft.

From PilotOnline.com. The comment by Lost_Sailor was submitted on Thursday, 10/06/2011 at 6:40 pm.

US: Senate bill S. 1608 introduced to help move laser pointer legislation

U.S. Senate Bill S. 1608 provides penalties of a “substantial” fine and/or jail time of up to 5 years, for aiming laser pointers at airplanes. The legislation was introduced September 22 2011 by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Republican from Rhode Island. The bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

A news report on WPRI said Whitehouse introduced this as a standalone measure. In February 2011 Whitehouse had proposed the same provisions as Amendment 8 to S. 223, the FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act which passed the Senate February 17 2011. Because House action on FAA funding was held up, Whitehouse decided to re-introduce the measure as its own bill.

The House version is H.R. 386 introduced January 20 2011 by Rep. Daniel Lungren, Republican of California. The House bill also provides a penalty of a fine and/or up to five years in prison. It was passed by the full House on February 28 2011.

It is likely that S. 1608 will successfully pass in the Senate Judiciary Committee and the full Senate. If the bill is identical to H.R. 386, then the legislation would be sent to the President for his approval and signature. If the bill differs from H.R. 386 -- for example, if amendments are added -- then a House/Senate reconciliation committee would meet to work out the differences, in advance of sending a single piece of legislation to the President.

From WPRI.com. S. 1608 can be tracked on GovTrack.us; as of September 25 2011, the text of the bill has not yet been posted.

US: North Myrtle Beach considers laser pointer ordinance (UPDATED - Ordinance passed)

Due to increasing laser pointer harassment and misuse, the city council of North Myrtle Beach, S.C. drafted a laser pointer ordinance at its September 19 2011 meeting. It would ban sales and possession of lasers by minors, and would prohibit pointing at a moving vehicle, person or animal. A fine of up to $500 and 30 days in jail is proposed. The city will first hold an ordinance workshop. A vote would come later.

The city has received more than 100 complaints about laser misuse. A spokesperson for the city said “We've had many complaints this past summer about people, mostly people under 18, shining the green laser into the condominiums, into hotel rooms … at people on the beach, at animals, and even at turtles. When they were hatching, they would shine them on the small turtles and lead them away from the ocean.”

(Note: the city of North Myrtle Beach is separate from its neighbor Myrtle Beach which has enacted restrictions on pointers.)

From CarolinaLive-WPDE and WMBFnews.com

UPDATE November 28 2011: The ordinance passed its second reading and now will officially go on the books in North Myrtle Beach. From North Myrtle Beach Times and CarolinaLive.

US: UPDATED - Myrtle Beach proposes severely restricting lasers

The beach resort town of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina is set to vote on a proposal to severely restrict lasers. The ordinance would prohibit minors from buying or using lasers. Businesses would be prohibited from selling lasers to minors.

For adults, the proposal would ban use in public such as beaches, parks or streets. It would be illegal to aim lasers at a person, animal or vehicle. Violation would be a misdemeanor, with a penalty of up to a $500 fine and one month in jail.Click to read more...

US: LIA warns against dangers of laser pointers

The Laser Institute of America warned the public that high-powered laser pointers are a danger to eyesight. Specifically, LIA cautions that such lasers are a “real, immediate and often unrecognized danger.”

LIA did not give specific recommendations to avoid eye injuries, other than individuals being cautious. They did note that “[t]here is an active debate about what should be done. Is the solution education, regulation or prohibition for this type of hand-held laser device?…. Until the time that these lasers are statutorily banned, regulated through licensing or are widely recognized as a hazard, many more injuries will occur. The public should take note of these dangers immediately and keep these high-power, hand-held devices away from children and the untrained user.”

Full text of the July 26 2011 press release from LIA News is below (click the “Read More…” link).Click to read more...

New Zealand: Laser restrictions to be proposed in Parliament

New Zealand national MP Dr. Cam Calder is to introduce a Members Bill to Parliament to control the use of handheld laser pointer devices. The proposal comes after 18 cases have been reported in New Zealand over the past 12 months. Details of the bill were not available, although Calder said it is “designed to reduce the chances of laser misuse.”

From Scoop Independent News

US: Second Ocean City NJ vote against pointers makes laser ban official

Laser pointers over 1 milliwatt are now officially banned from sale and possession in Ocean City, New Jersey. The resort town’s council voted unanimously and without discussion on July 14 2011. The council’s “second reading” confirms a June 23 initial vote against laser pointers and thus the ban now goes into effect. Violators will be fined up to $500 for a first offense, and up to $1000 and 30 days in jail for any subsequent offense.Click to read more...

Russia: Jail proposed for laser "hooligans"; media asked to not report incidents

The United Russia party has introduced legislation calling for 10-year jail terms for laser “hooligans”. The bill was sent to the lower house of the Russian Parliament, the State Duma. It is unclear from news reports whether the legislation’s 10-year penalty is simply for aiming at or illuminating an aircraft, or if it is for cases that result in deaths.

The Moscow Times said Rostov-on-Don’s police chief wanted a 10-year term for people who blind pilots if their actions result in deaths. Alexi Lapin also blamed media attention for encouraging copycats: “Publicity in the media only encourages them to act. In medicine, this is called an epidemic, and it has yet to peak.”

Others agreed with the police chief’s media theory, including the leader of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, who banned laser pointer sales (and by some media accounts, possession) on July 4 2011. A senior Transportation Ministry official asked media to stop covering the incidents: "Judging by the European experience, the less information there is on the issue, the fewer cases"

The attention comes after more than 50 reports of “laser hooliganism” thus far this year in Russia. This compares with five incidents in all of 2010.

From RIA Novosti., the Moscow Times and Bloomberg. See also other LaserPointerSafety.com stories about Russian aviation incidents and laser statistics.

Russia: Chechnya bans laser pointer sales after one incident

Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of Russia's North Caucasus republic of Chechnya, on July 4 2011 banned sales of laser pointers in the republic after one was used to shine into pilots' eyes as they flew into Grozny.Click to read more...

US: Ocean City NJ initially votes to ban sales, possession of laser pointers

The city council of Ocean City, New Jersey, voted unanimously in favor of an ordinance to ban the sale and possession of laser pointers over 1 milliwatt. The “first reading” vote took place on June 23 2011; the ordinance will take effect if the council votes again for it at a “second reading” on July 14. An initial violation would be fined $500; subsequent violations would be fined $1000 and/or up to 30 days in jail.

The move comes after significant laser misuse during the resort city’s 2010 summer season, and a rise in 2011 incidents against aircraft, vehicles and citizens. The “straw that broke the camel’s back” may have been a June 7 illumination, where a 21-year-old purchased a green laser pointer from a Boardwalk store and almost immediately aimed it at a Coast Guard helicopter two miles offshore. The man, Eric Bouda, was arrested within minutes. (More on the story here.)

Last year, the local merchants’ association and the police asked for a voluntary ban on sales. However, the ban was not successful, with merchants resuming sales for competitive reasons.Click to read more...

South Africa: Up to 12 incidents per week, say pilots

Between 10 and 12 laser illuminations of aircraft each week are reported to the Air Line Pilots Association of South Africa (ALPA-SA). A spokesperson said the number is likely much higher since pilots for large airlines would report directly to the airline. (Of four airlines contacted by the Cape Argus, one said they had “infrequent instances” which they had reported to authorities, two said they had received no complaints from flight crews, and one did not respond to requests for comment.)

ALPA-SA is calling for public education and a ban on handheld laser sales. According to the organization, there was a temporary drop in the number of incidents after media reports earlier in 2011, but the incidents are now on the rise again.

A spokesperson for the Civil Aviation Authority said “a few cases” had been reported thus far in 2011. He added that if the International Civil Aviation Organization introduced new regulations, the CAA would “definitely look into implementing it.”

From the Cape Argus

New Zealand: Pilots call for restrictions after 16 incidents to date in 2011

The New Zealand Air Line Pilots Association on April 13 2011 called for restrictions on the sale and distribution of “commercial-strength” Class 3 and Class 4 lasers, after 16 incidents in New Zealand in 2011. This came on the heels of an April 11 incident where a green laser illuminated the cockpit of a Pacific Blue aircraft during landing at Auckland Airport.

According to NZALPA’s vice president Glen Kenny, “There is no restriction on the sale and distribution of commercial-strength lasers in New Zealand. In Australia they treat Class 3 lasers or higher as a potential weapon."

NZALPA had previously proposed restrictions in New Zealand “two or three years ago” but the organization wanted it given a higher priority. A spokesman for the Ministry of Health’s National Radiation Laboratory said the issue was “still being considered.” He did note that there have been “successful police prosecutions where people had carelessly or deliberately aimed lasers at vehicles or aircraft.”

From the New Zealand Herald

Norway: Registration now required for laser pointer possession and use

Norway has restricted possession and use of Class 3R, 3B and 4 laser pointers (over 5 milliwatts in power), starting 1 Jan. 2011. The Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority (NRPA) took the action because of aircraft illumination incidents and cases where young people received eye injuries after playing with the laser pens.

Under the new regulations, a laser pointer is defined as “a handheld laser, battery-operated or otherwise self-powered, designed to be held in the hand and pointing at something in the distance.”

NRPA’s restrictions on use do not appear to apply to use inside a private home. However, permission is required if the laser is to be aimed out the window of a home.

Links (in Norwegian; use Google Translate or similar as necessary)
General notice from NRPA
Laser pointer regulations and application (PDF document)
Thanks to Arild Instebø for bringing this to our attention

Highlights of the Norwegian regulations, and the application for laser possession, are below (click on the “Read More...” link).Click to read more...

Germany: 273 (or 388) incidents in 2010; call for ban on pointers

In 2010, there were 273* laser “attacks” on aircraft in Germany, an increase of 800 percent. This is according to the deputy chairman of the CDU / CSU Parliamentary Group, Dr. Günter Krings, who spoke to a safety group in Potsdam.

He recommended fast action. He discussed a European import ban, as well as classifying lasers as a weapon, and prohibiting private possession of Class 3 and Class 4 lasers. He said, “I call on the competent authorities to submit to the problem of dangerous laser fast red tape as possible solutions, before something happens and people get hurt.”

The pilot’s union Vereinigung Cockpit said an import ban is not sufficient, because customs checks are difficult. Cockpit board member Joerg Handwerg said "Although lasers may not be sold in shops with a capacity of more than one milliwatt in Germany, but you get the devices in the Internet.” The group wants to prohibit the possession of equipment for private individuals.

Original articles (in German) from
Rettung Magazine, Fluege.de News, and Heute.de.

*NOTE: An April 23 2011 article from N-TV.de says there were 388 “attacks with laser pointers at pilots” in 2010. This is according to the German air traffic control agency, DFS. The article had no additional information that might account for the discrepancy with the 273 incidents in 2010 that is quoted above.

US: FDA "disapproves" of Wicked Lasers; stops imports

Tech website Gizmodo reports that the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH) sent a letter Nov. 3 2010 to Wicked Lasers, disapproving of “the quality control and testing program for all [Wicked] laser products.” This includes the well-known Spyder III Arctic, a nominal 1-watt, 445 nm blue handheld laser.

FDA cites eight items of noncompliance:
  • Three of these items relate to a January 2006 letter which FDA says Wicked did not respond to.
  • Four items relate to Wicked claiming in 2006 and 2008 that its lasers were sold for surveying, leveling and alignment (SLA) purposes; FDA says Wicked is not complying with restrictions on SLA lasers. (FDA has greater authority to regulate SLA lasers than it does to regulate general-purpose lasers).
  • The final item objects to Wicked stating on its website that its products are “FDA Certified” when in fact the manufacturer certifies compliance to FDA, who reviews and files the certification documents.
FDA gave Wicked 15 days to respond in one of three ways: by refuting the charges, by requesting an exemption, or by notifying purchasers and taking corrective actions (e.g., a recall or refund). Wicked cannot certify lasers under the old “disapproved” testing program, and cannot import or sell non-compliant lasers or non-certified lasers.

The restrictions will be lifted, FDA told Wicked, once “CDRH determines that you have established an adequate quality testing program, and you have submitted the required reports and report supplements.”

From
Gizmodo. The full text of FDA’s warning letter to Wicked is after the link (click “Read more...”)Click to read more...

US: UPDATED - New Jersey law proposed to ban laser pointers above 1 milliwatt

After a spate of aircraft lasings and citizen harassment in Ocean City, a bill has been introduced in the New Jersey state Senate that would ban sales of laser pointers over 1 milliwatt. This is five times less than the current U.S. limit. (U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations require lasers sold as “pointers” or for pointing purposes to be below 5 milliwatts.)

New Jersey S2430 provides for a $500 penalty for the first offense, and up to $1000 for any subsequent offenses. A laser pointer is defined in the bill as “any device that emits laser light to project a beam that may be used for aiming, targeting, or pointing out features.”

The state Senator representing Ocean City, Jeff Van Drew, introduced the legislation on November 22 2010. It was assigned to the state Senate Commerce Committee.

The bill text is available at e-lobbyist.

UPDATE - June 11 2011: The bill is still pending in the Commerce Committee. Renewed attention has been brought to the legislation as the opening of Ocean City’s 2011 summer season has brought additional incidents against both aircraft and citizens (see links below to related June 2011 news stories).

UPDATE 2 - August 20 2013: The bill passed both the New Jersey Assembly and the Senate, and was sent to Gov. Chris Christie for his signature.

Related LaserPointerSafety.com news stories about Ocean City and New Jersey laser troubles

EU: Call for EU-wide restrictions on laser pointers

Radiation safety authorities in Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden are asking the European Commission to “immediately begin preparing a European Directive for battery-powered lasers and establish import restrictions on such items.” The goal is to allow only Class 1 and 2 pointers; lasers above 1 mW would be restricted.

Click “Read more...” to see the full text of the letter.Click to read more...

US: Ocean City NJ discusses a ban on laser pointers

The city council of Ocean City, New Jersey, on August 26 2010 discussed banning laser pointers after a rash of incidents including seven aircraft illuminations. The mayor said that eight out of ten Boardwalk stores had planned to stop sales voluntarily. The city hoped “to convince the remaining shops to voluntarily remove them from their shelves.”

The move came after a report one week earlier about seven incidents when aircraft landing at Atlantic City International Airport had been illuminated by lasers. Police noted that while pointing at an aircraft is a crime, owning or selling lasers is not against the law.


Ocean City, New Jersey, location in relation to Atlantic City International Airport (“A” on the map above)

From the Press of Atlantic City. An earlier story (August 18 2010) has additional details about the aircraft illuminations and the efforts to stop sales; see this Press of Atlantic City article. A January 23 2011 Press of Atlantic City article updates the laser situation in the Ocean City area.

Related LaserPointerSafety.com news stories about Ocean City and New Jersey laser troubles

US: Ocean City MD passes emergency law restricting laser pointer use, sale

Ocean City, Maryland, passed an emergency law on August 2 2010 restricting laser pointer sales and use in a number of ways:
  • Sales to minors are prohibited.
  • Possession by minors within town limits is prohibited.
  • It becomes illegal to shine pointers on persons, streets, bays, sidewalks or the boardwalk.
  • Stores must post conspicuous signs notifying prospective purchasers of the town’s laser pointer law.
  • Stores must provide a written copy of the town’s law to anyone purchasing a pointer.
Violation is a misdemeanor, carrying a penalty of up to $1000 in fines and/or a jail sentence of up to six months.

The action is in response to an “out of control” situation in the resort city (see story here).


News story from WMAR covering the laser pointer problems and resulting law

From WBOC 16

US: More than 30,000 lasers are "out of control" in Ocean City MD

In the summer of 2010, laser pointer abuse is “out of control” in Ocean City, Maryland, according to Police Chief Bernadette DiPino: “The Boardwalk is just inundated with these green lasers.” Police said 23 local stores had sold more than 30,000 laser pointers this year (2010). A city councilman said it was “like Star Wars” on the Boardwalk.

Perpetrators are shining beams onto the faces, “chests and private parts” of passers-by; the latter starting fights with boyfriends according to the chief. One family complained that their child had a seizure after a laser was shone on their eyes. A councilwoman said “a young boy ... shined a green laser directly into her eyes. She said her vision is now hazy and impaired, though a doctor advises her it will eventually return to normal.”

An article from delmarvanow.com quoted 29-year-old Richard Drake of Ocean City, who in 2009 “sustained serious damage to his left eye after having a red laser shone purposefully in the face. Now he sees everything with a pinkish hue.” He is campaigning to have laser pointer sales banned in the resort town.

The town council was poised to ban sales to minors and possession by minors, to make it illegal to aim lasers at people and vehicles, and mandating signs in stores and handouts to buyers that describe the city’s ordinances. (The legislation passed; see story here.)Click to read more...

Czech Republic: Pilots call for laser pointer law

The Czech Airline Pilots Association has called on parliament to enact a law making it illegal to use laser pointers to blind pilots.

The group says at least seven passenger planes were targeted by laser pointers last year at Prague's international airport as they were landing or taking off.

Pilots representative Karel Mundel said on Feb. 3 that such attacks pose a serious security risk because it could cause flash blindness and threaten pilots' ability to control planes or seriously damage their eyes.

The pilots said Czech authorities should enact a law against laser misuse like other countries, including Britain, Germany and the US.

From the Sydney Morning Herald via AAP

Australia: Tasmania proposes laser pointer ban

The Tasmanian state government introduced legislation to ban unlawful possession of laser pointers in public places.

The move was a result of "a number of incidents" where high-powered pointers had been used to target aircraft.

The amendment to the Police Offenders Act would make it illegal to intentionally direct a laser beam at any person, animal, vehicle or aircraft. "The proposed offenses related to all laser pointers but did not include their use by surveyors, astronomers, medical professionals and those in the construction and mining industries."

More details are available from The Examiner

Malta: Class III laser pointers banned, confiscated

A number of laser pointers and similar products are being banned and withdrawn from the market by the Malta Standards Authority.

The Authority said that these products posed a risk to users. They had an integral Class III laser which was harmful if the beam produced was pointed towards the eye. Some also produced an electric discharge.

Retailers having these products on their shelves were requested to remove them and to contact the agents supplying them to ensure their recall.

Consumers who had these products in their possession should return them to the place of purchase. The Authority warned retailers that all similar products which would be found on the market would be confiscated.

From the Times of Malta.

Ireland: Pilots call for pointer ban

Airline pilots in Ireland want a ban on handheld laser pointers, after “a number of pilots were dazzled” while landing at Dublin’s airport. Captain Adrian Hinkson of IALPA wants the lasers classified as weapons; it would be illegal to possess a laser pointer without a license.

The Irish Aviation Authority has said ten incidents have occurred since September 2008. Aer Lingus airlines said six of their flights were targeted “in recent months”

From RTE News. The article also has links to two RealAudio video reports on the pilots’ call for restrictions, and on the Dublin incidents.

Canada: Pilots call for better labeling; tougher penalties

Canadian pilots are calling for better labeling on laser pointers and tougher penalties for those caught beaming the blinding lights at airplanes after incidents across the country more than doubled over the last year.

According to Transport Canada, there have already been 56 occurrences this year [2008] compared with 21 in 2007. The department has recorded a total of 83 since 2005.

"The increase in the number of laser events that are occurring in Canada and around the world are alarming to us," said Capt. Barry Wiszniowski of the Air Canada Pilots Association. "The laser events that are occurring are probably one of the greatest safety concerns that we have right now as a profession."

Wiszniowski said the industry is calling on laser manufacturers to develop labeling that will contain warnings similar to those on tobacco products.

He is also encouraging the courts to issue stiffer penalties to offenders.

Many more details at Metronews

UK: eBay, Amazon remove high-powered pointers

The internet trading companies eBay and Amazon [in the UK] are removing high-powered green laser pens [pointers] from sale on their sites.

The move follows a BBC investigation which found some of these potentially dangerous products were being sold irresponsibly by individual traders.
Click to read more...

NSW: Fine for possession, prison for dangerous use

New South Wales (Australia) Police Minister Judy Spence said the Bligh Government is taking strong action against the misuse of laser pointers.

Ms Spence said: “This government is committed to cracking down on these reckless and idiotic individuals, and that is why we have previously announced we are introducing new legislation regarding the possession and use of laser pointers.

“Under changes to the Weapons Act which I announced in July, following the Weapons Act Review, it will become an offence to be in possession of a laser pointer, without a reasonable explanation. Click to read more...

Australia: National ban on high-powered laser pointers

Minister for Police Paul Holloway said today [14 June 2008] Federal, State and Territory Police Ministers meeting in Sydney have agreed to a national approach to combat a spate of high-powered laser attacks on aircraft. Mr Holloway says he will immediately seek to update State laws to include high-powered lasers with a greater output of one milliwatt on the South Australian Schedule of Prohibited Weapons.

“The State Government and South Australia Police consider the misuse of these laser pointers to be an issue of potential danger to the public,” Mr Holloway says. “These high-powered lasers can be incredibly harmful, particularly if shone into the cockpits of aeroplanes or cabins of other high-powered vehicles, potentially leading to widespread damage and even death.”
Click to read more...

Australia: Pointers to be banned in the ACT

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) government will ban high-powered laser pointers under the Prohibited Weapons Act of 1996, Minister for Police and Emergency Services Simon Corbell announced today.

“These amendments will make it an offense to possess or use powerful handheld laser pointers and are consistent with other jurisdictions that have moved to prohibit these items,” Corbell said in a statement. “Police will have the power to apprehend and prosecute a person who uses a laser pointer to target aircraft or vehicles.

Click to read more...

Australia: Ban on laser pointers?

Amateru astronomers, teachers and surveyors will have to justify carrying lasers under new bans aimed at avoiding "mass murder" if aircraft are targeted. New South Wales’ Premier, Morris Iemma, warned that all high-powered lasers would soon be classified as prohibited weapons and carrying any kind of laser - even harmless classroom pointers - without a good reason could result in two years' jail or a $5000 fine.

Critics said the new laws were impractical and accused the Government of failing to back its tough talk with resources for enforcement.

Lasers have become a serious problem for aircraft in Sydney. In the most recent incident, a beam was pointed at an ambulance helicopter at the weekend.

Mr Iemma said banning hand-held lasers would "stop the potential for mass murder. I cannot underestimate the … catastrophic consequences if a plane is brought down by one of these fools, these idiots, these reckless individuals who want to use these high-powered hand-held lasers and think it's a joke."

Full story at the Sydney Morning Herald

New York Times: Taking on "laser lunatics"

In a New York Times blog called “The Lede”, Mike Nizza gives an overview of laser incidents and proposed laws. Two excerpts:

And now handheld laser pointers have earned a place alongside guns in Australia’s most populous state.

A new law proposed today by the premier of New South Wales declares possession of the handheld lasers a serious crime, punishable by up to 14 years in prison, depending on the device’s power. Weaker lasers could carry a $5,000 fine or 2 years in jail, and there would be exemptions only for teachers, construction crews and the scientists who point out the stars on planetarium ceilings.
...
This all may sound vaguely familiar: the United States went through a similar fit in 2005. Then, the Federal Aviation Administration reported an astounding 287 cases of cockpits hit with laser beams, and the House of Representatives proposed a law against pointing the devices at planes , with fines up to $250,000 and prison terms up to five years.

The full blog post is at the
New York Times