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Canada: Health Canada warns about dangers of pointers, handhelds

Health Canada has issued a warning about the dangers of laser pointers and handheld lasers: “Looking directly into a beam from a laser for even a fraction of a second could cause permanent eye damage, depending on the power of the beam.”

They caution that laser pointers should be limited to IEC Class 3R (less than 5 milliwatts for visible beams). Health Canada says that higher powered Class 3B and 4 lasers “should not be used as laser pointers or in any other application unless operated by individuals who have been professionally trained in laser safety.”

The full text of the press release, including instructions on how to report suspected laser injuries, is available by clicking the “read more” link below.

From Marketwire

July 26, 2011 14:09 ET
Hand-Held Lasers or Laser Pointers May Cause Serious Vision Damage If Used Improperly

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - July 26, 2011) -

The issue:
Health Canada is warning Canadians about the dangers of misusing hand-held lasers or laser pointers. Their high-intensity light beams could pose a threat to the unprotected eye. Looking directly into a beam from a laser for even a fraction of a second could cause permanent eye damage, depending on the power of the beam.

Damage levels will increase if the laser beam is projected through a piece of optical equipment, like a telescope or binoculars. In these situations, the laser beam could actually burn a tiny spot, or cut open a blood vessel, on the retina at the back of the eye. In a worst-case scenario, the person could go blind.

Who is affected:
Consumers who use laser pointers. Laser pointers are not toys and should not be used by children.

What consumers should do:
  • When buying a laser pointer, choose one that has a clear warning on the label.
  • Carefully read and follow all manufacturers' instructions on the product packaging.
  • Never point a laser beam at anyone, and never look directly into the beam yourself.
  • Never aim a laser pointer at surfaces that would reflect the light back, like mirrors or mirrored surfaces.
  • Never leave a laser pointer within the reach of children.

What Health Canada is doing:

Health Canada regulates laser devices under the
Radiation Emitting Devices Act and the Radiation Emitting Devices Regulations. The Act and Regulations help ensure that laser devices sold in Canada are safe when used by Canadian consumers for their specified purposes and according to the manufacturer's instructions.


Laser technology was first developed in the 1960s. Since then, lasers have been incorporated into many applications we use today in our everyday lives. Laser technology is used in complex systems like aerospace technology, medical and scientific equipment, as well as in many common systems like office printers, CD and DVD players, rock concert light shows and laser pointers.

With scientific advances, more powerful laser pointers are now being engineered. This technology, which is readily accessible to the public, should be used with care. A simple hand-held laser pointer can be more than a million times brighter than the average 100-watt light bulb in your home.

Consumers should look for the classification of the laser on the label. Manufacturers often classify their laser products using an international standard, such as the European International Electrochemical Commission standard IEC 60825-1, according to the potential threat the laser poses to an individual.

Important to note:
Commonly used laser pointers should be limited to the IEC standard classification of Class 3R or less. Handheld lasers designated as Classes 3B and 4 should not be used as laser pointers or in any other application unless operated by individuals who have been professionally trained in laser safety.

For more information:
Consumers and health professionals wanting more information about this advisory from Health Canada can contact the Public Enquiries Line at 613-957-2991, or toll free at 1-866-225-0709.
Media enquiries related to this Advisory should be directed to Health Canada Media Relations at 613-957-2983.

How to report problems with consumer products:
Health Canada is interested in receiving reports of incidents or injury reports related to consumer products and cosmetics that have been previously recalled (health and safety related complaints). Incidents or injuries may be about the same hazard or may be about a different hazard related to the same product. An
incident report form (http://hc-sc.gc.ca/cps-spc/advisories-avis/incident/cpir-ricpc-eng.php) can be accessed on the Health Canada website.

Related Health Canada Web content:
For more information, or to report any concerns or accidents caused by exposure to laser light, contact:
Health Canada's Consumer and Clinical Radiation Protection Bureau (www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ahc-asc/branch-dirgen/hecs-dgsesc/psp-psp/ccrpb-bpcrpcc-eng.php)
For more information on lasers and laser pointers, see:
Transport Canada, "Use Laser Pointers Safely and Legally" (www.tc.gc.ca/eng/civilaviation/standards/aerodromeairnav-standards-ais-directed-bright-light-menu-1068.htm)
Canada's Air Force, "The Effects of Laser Pointers on Night Aviation" (www.airforce.forces.gc.ca/dfs-dsv/pub/nr-sp/index-eng.asp?id=10991)
Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, "Lasers" web section (www.ccohs.com/oshanswers/phys_agents/lasers.html)
U.S. Food and Drug Administration's laser safety notification (www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/Safety/AlertsandNotices/ucm237129.htm)

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