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March 27, 2013
Feds find possible eye hazards in laser pointers

You’re familiar, of course, with those red and green laser pointers commonly used in training, meetings, emergency response, and other workplace settings. New research suggests they may be hazardous for those who use them and those who are in places where they are in use.

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The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) tested 122 handheld laser pointers and found that nearly 90 percent of green pointers and about 44 percent of red ones were out of compliance with federal safety regulations. Both emitted more visible power than allowed, and green pointers also gave off unacceptable levels of infrared light.

The NIST researchers concluded, “Our results raise numerous safety questions regarding laser pointers and their use.” They say that permanent eye damage is a risk.

The tests were conducted on randomly chosen commercial laser devices. They are limited under the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) to 5 milliwatts maximum emission in the visible portion of the spectrum, and less than 2 milliwatts in the infrared portion. The highest measured output was 66.5 milliwatts, more than 10 times the legal limit.

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