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Gov't Report: Laser Pointers Produce Too Much Energy, Pose Risk For the Careless 260

Posted by Soulskill
from the isn't-that-half-the-fun dept.
coondoggie writes "Commercial grade green and red laser pointers emit energy far beyond what is safe, posing skin, eye and fire hazards. That was the conclusion of a National Institute of Standards and Technology study on the properties of handheld lasers. The study tested 122 of the devices and found that nearly 90% of green pointers and about 44% of red pointers tested were out of federal safety regulation compliance."
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Gov't Report: Laser Pointers Produce Too Much Energy, Pose Risk For the Careless

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  • nice link (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @04:00PM (#43227621)

    You have to login to read the article. No thanks.

  • So then... (Score:5, Funny)

    by gman003 (1693318) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @04:00PM (#43227623)

    "The study tested 122 of the devices and found that nearly 90% of green pointers and about 44% of red pointers tested were out of federal safety regulation compliance."

    So blue lasers are safe then?

    • Re:So then... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by aurispector (530273) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @04:02PM (#43227659)

      It's why we can't have nice things. Idiots point lasers at aircraft blinding the pilots and the .gov bans them. Nobody has any common sense.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by DeadCatX2 (950953)

        Something tells me you don't know the difference between a Code of Federal Regulations and a ban.

      • Re:So then... (Score:5, Informative)

        by X0563511 (793323) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @04:22PM (#43227891) Homepage Journal

        Not really.

        What this study finds is that most laser pointers outright violate safety regulations that already exist.

      • I think that the government can take care of idiots who shine laserpointers at them... without a ban...
        http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=eb3_1361179577

        Pointing one at an apache gunship is one of the most stupid things to do. I mean, pointing at any aircraft is, but one that is built to kill is more than enough to get you on the shortlist for this years Darwin Awards...
        • I checked the aforementioned clip again and the latitude is west (of Greenwich), and 47 north is not where one would expect palmtrees...
          It turned out that 047.13.14N - 122.22.64W is near 48th street west, Tacoma, Washington. If the DoD was shooting at laser-pointing-dummies over there at 29-jan-2009, I guess it was already all over the news.
          So... sorry for the misinformation... my bad!
          • by irving47 (73147)

            pretty funny but if you pay attention to the HUD or the other stuff on the screen, it all changes when they go to night vision. I think this was just edited from other footage about a guy painting planes/helicopters and some footage from Afghanistan or Iraq.

    • Re:So then... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by DeadCatX2 (950953) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @04:15PM (#43227809) Journal

      I saw this article earlier and it's a bit misleading. Buried much more deeply...

      The NIST tests were conducted on randomly selected commercial laser devices labeled as Class IIIa or 3R and sold as suitable for demonstration use in classrooms and other public spaces

      That whole "Class IIIa/3R" thing is a pretty big deal. Lasers of this class are pretty heavily regulated because of the danger they can potentially pose. The color of the laser is almost unimportant, except for the minor detail of how green lasers are generated by dividing infrared light in half, which makes them subject to a bit more regulation since infrared is not a visible emission; invisible emissions are more strictly regulated, since there's no blink reflex to save your eyes.

      I wonder what percentage of commercial laser pointers are Class IIIa/3R?

      For the record, I did some research on lasers, because we were going to incorporate one into one of our products...until we learned how heavily regulated they are, and went with a diode that pumps out like 50x as much wattage, but doesn't fall under regulations since the emissions aren't coherent. Throughout my research, I learned that no one - literally, no one - has ever reported being injured by a Class IIIa/3R laser. The danger posed by these emissions is more theoretical than practice.

      • by X0563511 (793323)

        Throughout my research, I learned that no one - literally, no one - has ever reported being injured by a Class IIIa/3R laser.

        The important part here is reported. Who is going to admit that they damaged their vision after staring into a laser for 4 hours?

        • Re:So then... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by AK Marc (707885) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @04:38PM (#43228089)
          I had a colleague at work who tried to impress me with his tech ability and ability to buy toys. One such example was his laser pointer. He "overclocked" it and bragged about it and how bright it was now. It could burn things and all that. Generally, if it can burn paper, your blink reflex is not sufficient to prevent blindness. Also, there's some level at which a reflection (even a low powered one, like a partial reflection from glass) coulr cause blindness without prolonged use. I informed him that I did not wish to see his toy, and if he intended to bring it to work, to let me know the day before so I could remain home for my own safety. He was greatly pissed off about that. He wanted to show it off, but I'd rather not go blind from some prick who doesn't know what he's doing shining it at me, or a reflective surface near me.
          • by DocSavage64109 (799754) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @04:58PM (#43228347)
            Your apprehension reminds me of this article: Russian concert laser show blinds 30 [telegraph.co.uk]
          • by Twinbee (767046)
            Despite my curiosity, I would share your trepidation on that one. I recently bought a £3 1mW red laser for my pet dog to chase, but due to the 'horror' stories of 50-100mW lasers masquerading as 1-5mW I wrote to laserpointerforums.com to ask if there was any way I could test to see it was really 1mW (or thereabouts). AFter all, I don't want to blind my dog.

            Anyway, I can smile now, but the response by many there was quite rude :) Here for your amusement is the thread:
            http://laserpointerforums.com/f [laserpointerforums.com]
            • by irving47 (73147)

              You're not going to blind your dog. Not unless you can convince it to stare into the beam for a while, and good luck with that. I've heard of a study being done with "pointers" (and that term is very specifically directed at what you can buy in wal-mart/Staples/etc) on cow eyes and even eyes of people that were about to have them removed due to disease... Pointing into their eyes caused no detectable damage. Sorry, i can't cite the source.
              As for the LPF guys being rude, keep in mind they daily deal with que

              • Re:So then... (Score:5, Informative)

                by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @06:41PM (#43229647)

                As someone who has worked extensivly with class IIIb/IV lasers in the past (I was even licensed by the state of New York to do so) you can think of laser safety in this way:
                Class i: Stare in to the beam until the end of time, no issues gaurenteed,
                Class II: Stare in to the beam until the end of time, you might have some issues but probably not permanent,
                Class IIIa: Your aversion reaction is fast enough for you to escape permanent damage.
                Class IIIb/IV: You're fucked.

                They did tests on animal eyes and eyes of people who were going to have them removed. They tested different power level until 50% of tests had damage then divided the power level by ten for the safety rating. So long as you're not an idiot (that's a stretch for most people) and you don't get your hands on some real class IIIb/IV toys you're probably not in any danger.

                That being said, don't screw around with UV lasers. UV exposure is cumulative and you will get cataracts when you hit your individual exposure limit.

                • by AK Marc (707885)
                  I can't trust your assessment.

                  Class i: Stare into the beam and you will go blind, but the beam is sealed in a DVD unit (or other closed application) that would require significant effort to expose the working laser, so staring at the outside plastic case of your DVD player will give you no issues, guaranteed.

                  Stare at the device all you want, you'll never see the beam. Though I've seen some top-load DC/DVD players with improperly working interlocks that would inappropriately power the laser.
          • by irving47 (73147)

            What you said/did was right on.

      • by Twinbee (767046)
        I think there has been a level of fearmongering above and beyond what the actual risk would dictate. There's a rather humorous argument over at PhotonLexicon, where tsteele93 (and I think one other) debate/argue with most of the others there. Here's a couple of quotes at the start of the thread where he joins in [photonlexicon.com]:

        Here's a couple of choice quotes:

        Well, the OP was over two years ago and 1W blues had just hit the scene with certain impending doom guaranteed by those who were inclined to believe that it was imminent. Some of the early posts in this thread are downright amusing, with the general premise that the members of this forum held the key to stopping the certain influx of horrific eye injuries that were certain to start flooding in, by making sure sales were only made to "responsible buyers."

        And yet, two plus years later we just haven't seen the injuries.
        It is always easy to predict doom and gloom but it is always interesting to see when those predictions don't come true...
        It just seems that people don't go buy 1W+ lasers and start pointing them in people's eyes.

        ...And from another post:

        “Right now I haven’t seen an epidemic of injuries,” Dr. Bryan said, but he added that the potential was there. “In the hands of children it’s a very scary proposition.”

        Injuries from momentary (accidental/unwanted) exposures: According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as of April 2012 the FDA has never received a report of eye injury from momentary exposures to laser pointers of Class 2 and 3R power (e.g., below 5 milliwatts).

        Injuries from Class 4 consumer lasers: There have been no reported injuries from commercially manufactured Class 4 consumer lasers (over 500 milliwatts of visible light), as of April 7 2012. This includes the Wicked Lasers Spyder III Arctic “1 watt” laser which first came out in August 2010, as well as similar high-power Class 4 lasers sold by other companies such as DinoDirect.com. There have been two reports of injuries from homemade or hobbyist kit Class 4 lasers, the results are minor injury and more severe.

      • by AaronLS (1804210)

        It's hard to measure injuries of something not actively tracked. It's like trying to find out how many pedestrians were run over by the quiet-but-deadly Prius(I'm just joking). I know researchers who literally read crash report after report by hand to classify them, and then do estimated projections. Much of the centrally tracked data is inconsistently reported, and doesn't have enough information to make correlations.

        I doubt the medical field, where statistics usually takes a backseat to HIPAA, would be

    • by Synerg1y (2169962)

      Doesn't matter, shooting a laser into somebody's eye should carry a minimum penalty of getting your ass beat.

      Also, everytime I think of laser pointers I now think of this: http://www.wickedlasers.com.hk/ [wickedlasers.com.hk] . The lasers in TFA have nothing on this.

    • My reaction was "So what is the brand of green laser that is putting out 65.5 mw instead of 5mw? And will ThinkGeek be buying up the remaining supply before the government confiscates it?

      • My reaction was "So what is the brand of green laser that is putting out 65.5 mw instead of 5mw? And will ThinkGeek be buying up the remaining supply before the government confiscates it?

        Probably any of the cheap Chinese imports you find on Ebay but don't buy one. Unscrupulous con artists remove the InfraRed filter so a laser power meter shows it as being "bright", hoping the buyer is ignorant of the fact that most of that brightness is in invisible but damaging wavelengths.

      • I laugh at your puny 65.5 mw laser: http://www.wickedlasers.com.hk/krypton [wickedlasers.com.hk]

    • by irving47 (73147)

      More dangerous, if anything. Fortunately, still relatively rare... You don't see them on sale at Staples or Office Max or the checkout counter of Wal-mart.
      You can get them, but the sites that sell them are still somewhat specialized. You can get some cheap ones on amazon, but they're not "true" blue. The diodes come out of blu-ray players and SAY they are legal (5mw) but they're such cheapo chinese crap, I have heard some of them are more like 30mw. Very dangerous to your eyes. Especially since their wavele

  • by Antony T Curtis (89990) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @04:00PM (#43227635) Homepage Journal

    In other news, a report reports that automobiles produce too much energy and poses risks, including death, for the careless.

    • In other news, a report reports that automobiles produce too much energy and poses risks, including death, for the careless.

      Maybe that's why we regulate who gets to drive one?

      • Given that there are pedestrians (not in a vehicle) killed crossing streets by an automobile, seemingly every day, it isn't working.
        By that logic, they should ban pedestrians from walking within 20ft of any road.

        Some things are dangerous and should be left dangerous. Just educate that they carry risk and responsibility.

        • Given that there are pedestrians (not in a vehicle) killed crossing streets by an automobile, seemingly every day, it isn't working. By that logic, they should ban pedestrians from walking within 20ft of any road.

          Some things are dangerous and should be left dangerous. Just educate that they carry risk and responsibility.

          I'm guessing there are a lot less deaths than there would be if we let 12 year olds drive. The fact that something is inherently dangerous is a reason to make it safer, not to just accept any number of casualties occurring from unrestricted use. Look at the history of industrial safety if you need further convincing.

    • by Synerg1y (2169962)

      I'm telling you guys... air is bad for you too, all that CO2 & CO, only way to stay safe is to stop breathing.

    • by hawguy (1600213)

      In other news, a report reports that automobiles produce too much energy and poses risks, including death, for the careless.

      I fully agree that overly powerful cars should be banned from the roads. Or at least tamed down to "normal" car levels through a "track switch" that can enable the full performance of the car for use at the track (like the Bugatti Veyron's "high speed mode" that can only be activated while stopped with a special key). They are a hazard on the roads - I don't think anyone owns a 350+ HP sports car to drive in a safe and legal manner all the time, and the car commercials (with their trained drivers on a clos

      • by cayenne8 (626475)

        I fully agree that overly powerful cars should be banned from the roads. Or at least tamed down to "normal" car levels through a "track switch" that can enable the full performance of the car for use at the track (like the Bugatti Veyron's "high speed mode" that can only be activated while stopped with a special key). They are a hazard on the roads - I don't think anyone owns a 350+ HP sports car to drive in a safe and legal manner all the time, and the car commercials (with their trained drivers on a close

        • by hawguy (1600213)

          I fully agree that overly powerful cars should be banned from the roads. Or at least tamed down to "normal" car levels through a "track switch" that can enable the full performance of the car for use at the track (like the Bugatti Veyron's "high speed mode" that can only be activated while stopped with a special key). They are a hazard on the roads - I don't think anyone owns a 350+ HP sports car to drive in a safe and legal manner all the time, and the car commercials (with their trained drivers on a closed course) make that point too.

          Man...are you ever the buzzkill. I'm guessing we shouldn't be able to have corvettes or porsches, or be able to mod our cars in any fashion to go over 55mph to suit you?

          Where's the fun in that? If you can't handle a performance car, don't get one...but why rain on the parade of those who can?

          I'm not saying you shouldn't have fun, you should absolutely have fun on closed courses (work with your car club to shut down those fun mountain roads for your uninterupted enjoyment), just don't have your fun at the expense of innocent drivers that use the roads for transportation. And I say that as someone who lost a close friend who was T-boned by a 280Z traveling at high speed through a stop sign -- cops said the 280Z was driving so fast, that it's likely that my friend couldn't even see the car coming

          • I hear that argument a lot: "I need this powerful car so I can get out of other people's way"... but I've been driving for over 30 years, and in all of that time, there was only once when I had to rely on my vehicle's performance to get out of the way of an accident. And that was when I was on my motorcycle at a stoplight and saw the car approaching from behind at a high rate of speed - I made a quick (and illegal) right turn on red - he squealed to a stop in the middle of the intersection.

            His observation m

  • TFA, which has the same headline, ends by mentioning that people point them at pilots in planes taking off or landing. So way to make a misleading headline, networkworld. Not getting the traffic you want?
    • by hawguy (1600213)

      TFA, which has the same headline, ends by mentioning that people point them at pilots in planes taking off or landing. So way to make a misleading headline, networkworld. Not getting the traffic you want?

      From TFA:

      Commercial grade green and red laser pointers emit energy far beyond what is safe, posing skin, eye and fire hazards.

      So what is misleading by saying "Laser Pointers Produce Too Much Energy, Pose Risk For the Careless"? Do you think everyone understands the eye risk of the laser pointed they bought on eBay and understands that aiming it on people risks eye and even skin injury, and that even an errant reflection from a shiny surface has the same danger?

  • by Anon, Not Coward D (2797805) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @04:02PM (#43227671)
    Obligatory xkcd http://what-if.xkcd.com/13/ [xkcd.com]
    • Well, thank you so very much for that link. I'd never before heard of "what-if.xkcd.com" and I am pleased to become a fan. I like the thinking and calculation* that went into that article. (* I am a fan of arithmetic and of calculating whatever I can whenever I can, as any review of my posts would show you. Recent example: Amazing! 4513 bytes per neuron per data-entry [slashdot.org] showing that the average data-cube per neuron is a cube of 16 pixels on the side for monochromatic laser, or a cube of 11 pixels edge-len
  • by Steauengeglase (512315) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @04:05PM (#43227709)

    "We need more testing in this field, particularly on that white wall over there."

  • ...buy lots of laser pointers.

    This makes me soooo want to buy laser pointers I don't need, just because I may soon not be able to.

    How unsafe would a cluster of these be...

    now I just need some hydrogen balloons.

  • Do not look directly into Laser (or Lightsaber) with remaining good eye.
  • Life is unsafe (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jxander (2605655) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @04:19PM (#43227853)

    In a similar report, we've found that 100% of lighters, knives, crampons and Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifles are outside tolerable limits for safety.

    Seriously, you'll shoot your eye out, kid.

    • by Type44Q (1233630)

      In a similar report, we've found that 100% of lighters, knives, crampons and Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifles are outside tolerable limits for safety.

      However, the researcher studying the safety of lawn darts was unavailable for comment; reports indicate he was last seen being loaded into an ambulance...

      • by russotto (537200)

        However, the researcher studying the safety of lawn darts was unavailable for comment; reports indicate he was last seen being loaded into an ambulance...

        Do not stare at lawn dart hung up in tree.

        If you ignore this advice, at least move when it starts to get bigger.

    • Re:Life is unsafe (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Trogre (513942) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @11:10PM (#43231287) Homepage

      Hell no. These are not like knives.

      These laser pointers are much more dangerous that you might think. Sweep a 120mW laser across the eyes of a room full of people at 10 feet and you've just permanently damaged their retinas before anyone could blink.

      Used with care, they can be crazy awesome fun and I have several, but I treat them as munitions and keep them well locked away because I'm aware of exactly what damage they can do.

      You seriously do not want these in the hands of yobbos who will wave them in the eyes of the first child they see saying, "Look, lightsaber!"

  • Back in the day men use to resolve these problems on their own. Why the fuck is this even neccissary, and at the very worst "harm caused by laser" in court is perfectly well covered by a gazillion pre-existing assault laws. Should be, "assault with any fucking bloody object". Make it a fucking law and stop tacking bullshit on or putting your grubby little regulatory hands into the marketplaces of this country over stupid shit.

  • ... my homemade DVD burner laser pointer when they pry it out of my cold, dead hands.

  • by Greyfox (87712) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @04:26PM (#43227957) Homepage Journal
    One retarded kid swallows a magnet, and they can ban buckyballs. A pilot or something might get blinded at some point in the future and we can ban laser pointer sales. 30,000 people a year die from gun violence and we can't even pass universal fucking background checks?

    No. Fuck this shit. I move that every citizen of the USA shall receive from the government one glock 9 mm pistol, one box of hollow point ammunition, one multi-watt laser pointer, one... no, make that TWO extremely fucking dangerous magnets, [unitednuclear.com] and a big fucking bucket of fireworks, to do with as they please. In one year, the survivors can get together and discuss additional regulation. :-/

    • by Nadaka (224565) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @04:34PM (#43228047)

      Throw in a gallon of jeagermeister, and a 3 wheeler ATV and you have my vote! ;)

    • You have my vote

    • by RenHoek (101570)

      Here ya go..

      http://dx.com/p/27-neocube-buckyballs-magnet-balls-36-magnets-stripes-set-golden-180954 [dx.com]

      But I do agree.. I mean toys back then were awesome! Lawn darts, _real_ chemistry sets with radium and such..

      Have a look at http://www.cracked.com/article_19481_the-8-most-wildly-irresponsible-vintage-toys.html [cracked.com]

      I'm still in favor of Darwinism, even with children's toys.

    • by khallow (566160)

      One retarded kid swallows a magnet, and they can ban buckyballs. A pilot or something might get blinded at some point in the future and we can ban laser pointer sales. 30,000 people a year die from gun violence and we can't even pass universal fucking background checks?

      There's two simple observations to make here. First, gun owners are politically powerful and backed by the Second Amendment. Second, if someone gets shot, it's not a bureaucrat's fault. But if a kid swallows a magnet, then someone at the US Consumer Product Safety Commission has to explain why they didn't ban that product earlier.

      The result is that you get a really bad case of risk adverse behavior. It's easier to ban than allow safe products that have some risk associated with them. "Safe" here doesn't

  • I shouldn't keep pointing my 1W Wicked Laser at passing airliners? Where's the fun in that?
  • The sun emits energy far beyond what is safe, posing skin, eye and fire hazards.

  • ...and how terribly bad they were over the safety limits?

    Also, can you publish the retailers carrying them and prices, so I can surely avoid getting them? /Heading back to the Flashlight Forums to discuss my new hexa-Cree 6000 lumen pen light.

  • Dangerously powerful lasers are the next step in the evolution of... LASER CATS!

The more cordial the buyer's secretary, the greater the odds that the competition already has the order.

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