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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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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:
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Additional details are below.
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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
.

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

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.

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...