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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).

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.

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: 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...

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.
Click to read more...

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

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: NY Times says injury increase feared from higher powered lasers

The New York Times reported on persons who are concerned about eye injuries caused by misuse of lasers which are easily available and are “10 to 20 times as powerful” as the U.S. limit of 5 milliwatts. Experts quoted in the article say the incidents are “the beginning of a trend” and that “in the hands of children it’s a very scary proposition.”

The article listed four injuries to youths. In three of the incidents, a young person deliberately stared into a laser beam, while the fourth was caused by a high-schooler whose friend waved a 50 mW laser in his face. (Besides these anecdotal accounts, the article gave no overall statistics on injuries except to say that an ophthalmologist association is “unaware of any increase in eye injuries caused by lasers.”)

Author Christine Negroni covered a number of topics, including:
  • There has been “ninefold increase over five years” in laser illuminations of aircraft
  • Eye doctors are “shocked” that high-powered lasers are available on the Internet with no purchase restrictions.
  • A U.K. physician says the U.S. limit should be 1 mW, that even at 5 mW laser pointers have “acute” dangers.
  • FDA says that noncompliant (“illegal”) lasers are available despite agency seizures.
  • Wicked Lasers says that its products are compliant, that they are “extremely clear” about eye and fire hazards on their webpages, and that they will be offering online safety lessons “before checkout”.
  • A “large community” of laser enthusiasts wants to keep lasers available.
  • An 18-year-old laser hobbyist, who wears goggles and is supervised by his parents, said he was learning about electronics, soldering, physics, light, optics and mechanics.

From the New York Times, online on Feb. 28 2011, in print on March 1 2011 on page D5 of the National edition.