A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use

UK: 107 laser pens seized from house near Southampton Airport

British police in late September 2014 seized 107 laser pens from a house in Eastleigh, Hampshire, near the flight path of Southampton Airport.

In the ten weeks prior to September 26 2014, there were seven incidents of lasers being pointed at aircraft; five of these led to arrests.

News reports did not directly link the misuse to the man arrested with the 107 laser pens. It also is not known if the investigation that led to the seizure was started in response to the aircraft incidents, or was separately initiated. All flights landed safely.

One of the seized pens was said to be 650 times more powerful than normal. Given that U.K. regulations prohibit laser pointers above 1 mW, the pen was likely 650 milliwatts. This is Class 4, the most hazardous laser classification, as the beam can cause eye and even skin burns.

From the Daily Echo

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

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.

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.
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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.
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US: Government agency finds most laser pointers they purchased are overpowered

Researchers at the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology conducted precision tests on 122 laser pointers, most purchased online. Ninety percent of the green lasers, and 44 percent of red lasers did not comply with U.S. safety regulations. Green pointers often emitted dangerous invisible infrared radiation, in addition to the visible green light.

The findings were made public at a March 20 2013 meeting of the International Laser Safety Conference.

Researcher Joshua Hadler designed the measurement device to be accurate, inexpensive and easy-to-use. It would cost roughly $2000 in equipment costs to make a copy of the NIST device; plans are available from NIST for interested parties.

From a NIST press release, March 20 2013.
Click here for the full press release:
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.
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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: 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: FDA warns of risk from high-powered lasers

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a “safety notification” to consumers, warning them about the risk of eye and skin injuries from high-powered lasers.

The announcement, dated a week before Christmas said “high-powered laser pointers” are “illegal and potentially dangerous.... The FDA wants to make consumers aware that they should not buy these lasers for themselves or as gifts for others.”

The announcement noted that “many eye injuries from laser pointers go unreported.” Of reported injuries, FDA said in 2010 they were aware of three incidents involving children playing with laser pointers. One of these caused damage “from reflected beams after directing a 150 mW laser pointer into a mirror.”

FDA also described incidents of pilots experiencing temporary flash-blinding. In 2009, pilots reported 1500 incidents; in the first 10 months of 2010, there were 2321 incidents. FDA noted in boldface that “Using a laser to illuminate aircraft is a federal crime.”

FDA listed five recommendations:
  • Do not let children own or use laser pointers.
  • Do not buy any laser pointer over 5 mW
  • Do not aim laser pointers at any “person, pet, vehicle or aircraft” either directly or through reflections.
  • If you own a laser pointer over 5 mW, “dispose of it safely according to local environmental protection guidelines.”
  • If you are injured, see your eye doctor

The complete safety notification can be found on this FDA webpage, and is also reprinted here (click on the “Read more...” link).Click to read more...

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...

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.

US: New FDA publication on laser pointer hazards

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration presented their views on the hazards of powerful laser pointers, in a webpage and in a downloadable PDF brochure. According to Cdr. Dan Hewett of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, “When used responsibly, lasers are safe. However, a powerful laser, used irresponsibly, is unsafe, particularly when misused as a toy or directed at people, vehicles or aircraft.”

FDA is especially concerned about laser pointers above 5 mW, and about aircraft incidents. “In 2008, pilots reported a total of 950 cases of laser light striking an aircraft or illuminating a cockpit....The distraction from flash blindness could cause a serious accident.”


FDA publication about laser pointer hazards

Click to read more...

UK: 5 mW laser pointers seized

High powered laser pointers have been seized by trading standards officers at a container port in Suffolk. The seized pointers are illegal in the UK as their power rating of 5 milliwatt (mW) is more than the 1mW allowed.
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Australia - 1200 illegal pointers seized

Australian customs officers have seized 1200 high intensity laser pointers in eight weeks, after the ban on importing them without permits. The ban was introduced after numerous "laser attacks" on aircraft, police patrols and others.

"Under the new Customs regulations (introduced July 1), hand-held laser pointers with an emission level greater than one milliwatt (1mW) are prohibited, unless prior written permission has been granted," Minister for Home Affairs Bob Debus said.
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