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Green Laser Pointers Point to Danger

Sustained targeting of eye could cause real damage, study finds

THURSDAY, May 12, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Even brief exposure to commercially available green laser pointers can damage the human eye, warn the authors of a new study.

The study, published in the May issue of the journal Archives of Ophthalmology, found that exposures of just 60 seconds to commercially available Class 3A green laser pointers can cause visible harm to the eye's retina.

The Mayo Clinic study was conducted by pointing a green laser pointer directly at the retina of a patient's eye. The eye was already scheduled for removal due to a malignancy.

The green laser caused damage to the pigment layer of the patient's retina, researchers report, but it didn't cause a measurable decrease to the eye's vision. However, longer exposures to green laser pointers could cause vision damage, warned researcher and ophthalmologist Dr. Dennis Robertson in a prepared statement.

Green laser pointers are widely available and sales aren't regulated, which means they can be bought by children. Class 3A green lasers are used by amateur astronomers to pinpoint objects in the night sky. They're also used in daylight by the construction industry and architecture educators to point out structural details.

Robertson said higher-powered green laser pointers would be more likely to cause vision damage.

"With the use of laser pointers that are more powerful than five milliwatts, there would likely be damage to the actual vision. Functional damage could occur within seconds," he said.

Robertson stressed that he's not against the use of the green lasers; they just need to be used in a safe manner.

"Green lasers are not a public health hazard at this time, but something people should be aware of," Robertson said. "I'm raising concerns that people should be cautious when using green laser pointers not to point them at someone's eye or face. It's like how your use your knife -- carefully."

More information

Prevent Blindness America has a home eye safety checklist.

SOURCE: Mayo Clinic, news release, May 9, 2005
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