Health officials in Australia are warning parents across the globe about the potential side effects of using laser pointers as toys.
Last week, The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported that a teenager from Tasmania lost 75% of his eyesight after shining a laser pointer in his eye while he was playing with it. The 14-year-old boy started to have some serious problems with his eyes, so his parents took him to their family doctor. The doctor sensed a serious eye problem, and called Optometrist Ben Armitage to investigate the boy’s eyesight problems.
Ben Armitage said that the boy came to see him on Friday evening after his eyes had been exposed to the laser for only a brief amount of time. He took photographs of the boy’s eyes and discovered that he had burned his retinas and permanently damaged the backs of his eyes.
Armitage said that, unfortunately, the area of the eye that was affected is where detailed central vision occurs, and as a result, the extent of the damage to his eyesight was magnified. The laser pointer caused the boy to lose 75% of his vision in each eye.
The teen’s family reported that the boy didn’t experience any pain after the laser was pointed at his eye, but his vision was affected immediately after. His eyes were burned near the macular. That means his blindness will probably be permanent. Armitage said that he was optimistic that some of the boy’s vision would return once the swelling went down, but he will likely be partially blind for the rest of his life. He also explained that the damage caused to the boy’s eyes cannot be remedied with glasses.
As Christmas approaches, Optometry Tasmania Chief Executive Geoff Squibb has issued a warning, telling parents to avoid purchasing laser pointers for their children. According to the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Devices and Radiological health, a 5 mW laser could cause damage, and those “properly labeled” in the 3-5mW range have no reported cases of eye damage. Most of the laser pointers sold in the United States are approved by the Food and Drug Administration, but some have been imported and don’t adhere to the same guidelines for safety.