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Canada: Health Canada again warns about hazards of pointers, handheld lasers

For the second time in less than a year, Health Canada has issued a press release about hazards of pointers and handheld lasers. The June 25 2012 press release focuses on the potential for permanent eye damage.

The agency states that battery-powered pointers and handhelds “manufactured, advertised, sold, imported or leased should be limited to … Class 3R” which is less than 5 mW visible output. It is unclear whether “should” is advisory or is a regulatory requirement.

The document focuses on eye, skin and fire hazards of lasers and does not discuss the problem of visual interference with pilots’ or drivers’ vision while operating vehicles.

Newswire. The 2012 Health Canada press release is below (after the Read More… link). The July 2011 press release is here.

Advisory - Hand-held Lasers or Laser Pointers May Cause Permanent Vision Damage and Burns
OTTAWA, June 25, 2012 /CNW/ -
The issue:
Health Canada is advising Canadians about the potential dangers related to battery-operated hand-held lasers or laser pointers. Handheld lasers, which may resemble pens or flashlights, are most commonly used to point at objects in lectures or presentations, though they may also be advertised for other uses. In particular, lasers that emit Class 3B/IIIb or 4/IV accessible radiation
1 have the potential to cause serious harm due to the intensity of the radiation that they emit. They may also pose a fire hazard. Exposure to a direct or reflected beam - even for a fraction of a second - may cause permanent eye damage and burns. A controlled laser safety environment and professional laser safety training are necessary for the safe operation of Class 3B/IIIb and 4/IV lasers.
Health Canada reminds industry and Canadians that, under the
Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, it is prohibited to manufacture, import, advertise or sell any consumer product that poses an unreasonable hazard2 as a result of its normal or foreseeable use. Furthermore, under the Radiation Emitting Devices Act, it is prohibited to sell, lease or import into Canada a laser that creates a risk to any person of genetic or personal injury, impairment of health or death from radiation by reason of the fact that it either does not perform according to the characteristics claimed for it, does not accomplish its claimed purpose, or emits radiation that is not necessary in order for it to accomplish its claimed purpose. Health Canada will take appropriate action when non-compliant lasers are found.
To help reduce these potential health risks, battery-operated hand-held lasers or laser pointers manufactured, advertised, sold, imported or leased should be limited to the classification of Class 3R/IIIa or less. Under the International Electrotechnical Commission Standard IEC 60825-1, laser products are categorized in the following order, from the lowest to highest potential risk: Class 1, 1M, 2, 2M, 3R, 3B and 4. Title 21 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, Part 1040.10 (21 CFR 1040.10), administered by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), categorizes lasers in the following order, from the lowest to highest potential risk: Class I, IIa, II, IIIa, IIIb, and IV.

Approximate IEC / FDA Equivalent Laser Classes


* Data taken from the FDA publication Illuminating the Hazards of Powerful Laser Products
Users should look for appropriate warning labels, safety features and instructions which explain how to properly handle the device. Users should also look for the classification of a laser on the label and in the instructions. If you are uncertain of a laser's classification, contact the manufacturer.
Manufacturers often classify laser products using an international standard, such as the IEC Standard 60825-1 or the U.S. requirements set out in 21 CFR 1040.10.

What consumers should do:
Never point a laser beam at anyone, and never look directly into the beam yourself.
  • If you are uncertain about the classification of a laser, contact the manufacturer or retailer.
  • Carefully read and follow all manufacturers' instructions.
  • Never leave a laser within reach of children.

  • What Health Canada is doing:
    Health Canada conducts market surveys on lasers and will continue to work with industry and others to take appropriate action when non-compliant lasers are found.
    For more information:
    Consumers, health professionals and suppliers of lasers 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:
    • Internet: Report an Incident Involving a Consumer Product
    • Phone: 1-866-662-0666 (calls will be routed to closest regional office)
    • Mail : Incident Report - Consumer Product Safety Directorate
      Health Canada
      123 Slater Street
      Ottawa, ON, Canada, K1A 0K9
    Related Web content:
    For more information on handheld lasers and laser pointers, see:

    For more information on the
    Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, see:

    Stay connected with Health Canada and receive the latest advisories and product recalls using these social media tools:
    1 Radiation that is accessible to the user and/or bystander within the exposure area of the laser. 2 The Canada Consumer Product Safety Act defines a "danger to human health or safety" as "any unreasonable hazard - existing or potential - that is posed by a consumer product during or as a result of its normal or foreseeable use and that may reasonably be expected to cause the death of an individual exposed to it or have an adverse effect on that individual's health - including injury - whether or not the death or adverse effect occurs immediately after the exposure to the hazard, and includes any exposure to a consumer product that may reasonably be expected to have a chronic adverse effect on human health."