A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use

Israel: "Laser dreidel" toy's safety questioned

The Yeshiva World News issued a safety alert regarding a toy dreidel that contains a red laser diode like those used in laser pointers. The laser dreidel has flashing lights and plays music. A built-in laser diode projects a dot on the floor which becomes a circle as the dreidel is spun.

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This dreidel projects two laser dots, creating two circles when spun (insert photo). The listing above is from the U.S. Amazon.com website.

The news story points out that laser pointers can cause permanent vision damage. In addition, the story says the laser is sold “without a filter,” probably meaning without an infrared (IR) filter. IR light can damage the retina -- like visible light -- but also could damage the cornea.

A YouTube video shows the laser dreidel in action:

From Yeshiva World News

Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com: Yeshiva World News may be incorrect about the need for a filter. We are not aware of consumer-grade low-cost red laser pointers that have infrared filters. Such pointers use diodes that generate red laser light directly -- no IR intermediate stage is needed. (Green DPSS laser pointers do use IR, and thus an IR filter is necessary to help prevent eye damage from the IR output.)

The laser’s power is not known. From the video, it appears to be roughly equal to a laser pointer. (In the U.S., lasers under 5 mW can be used as pointers; in the U.K. the limit for a pointer is 1 mW.) Such a relatively low power is considered unlikely to cause eye damage under normal use conditions.

However, the news story is correct that there is some concern over children playing with the toy:
  • The laser diode appears to be on at all times in the video. This is not a wise design in a toy for toddlers and small children. It would be better if the laser could come on only when the dreidel was spinning.
  • Laser experts generally agree that children should not use laser pointers, no matter what the power.

Therefore, although the Laser Dreidel is not a significant laser hazard (assuming it is less than 5 mW), we recommend that toddlers and children should not be allowed to play with it. They may use the laser toy in an unsafe manner. For adults, and for teens who can use it responsibly, the Laser Dreidel would be an acceptable gadget.