A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use
On September 12 2017, a boy turned around and aimed the laser at the girl’s face. She covered her face but he deliberately aimed at her eyes. When she arrived at school, the girl told her teacher that her eye was sore and blurry. It remained that way throughout the day.
She went to an emergency center that night, and an ophthalmologist the next day. The prognosis was that there was no physical damage and her vision should improve.
About a week later, a local optician examined her and said there was damage to her peripheral vision on the left side, and it was likely to be permanent.
The girl’s father told The Press and Journal, “I was angry. I was shocked on Saturday, I was hoping it would get better. My daughter was upset. It has knocked her confidence. What I’m really bothered about is the availability of these pens. These laser pens are a danger and people should be aware. I’m intending to write to local MSPs and the MP about it. I don’t think any children should be able to buy them. You can buy them in supermarkets and on Amazon – I don’t think that’s right. I think the legislation has to be changed.”
A survey of UK ophthalmologists reported more than 150 incidents of eye injuries involving laser pointers since 2013, the vast majority of these involving children.
From an October 12 2017 article in The Press and Journal
The incident happened September 28 2017 in Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire.
From the Gazette
US: Calif. teacher loses credentials for, among other things, shining laser pointer in students' eyes
Carlos Cameron Duncan was said to have been aggressive to his students at Euclid Elementary School, to have verbally abused them, and to have used physical force, among other charges. He resigned March 8 2016. His credential revocation was reconsidered and sustained in April 2017.
There was no indication of any claim of injury from the laser pointer shining.
From a September 30 2017 article in the Daily Bulletin
She was treated at a hospital for “extreme burning pain.” She recovered with no lasting damage.
The laser attack happened in Carlisle, Cumbria around September 13 2017. It was not clear from news reports whether the ambulance driver was delayed in reaching the patient, or whether another ambulance was sent.
From BBC News
The document lists over 70 incidents. The two which involve prototype hardware that includes, or appears to include, laser light are:
- “After BT4 user study, user advised study lead, that she experienced discomfort in her eye and said she was able to see the laser flash at several points during the study. Study lead referred her to optometrist and secured prototype unit for analysis.”
- “Employee reported eye pain after working with new prototype, thought it may be associated with use. He noticed that the security seal on the magenta (outer) case had been broken and had thought the unit may have been tampered with.”
Gizmodo wrote that “a source inside Apple speculated that this [March 2] injury may have something to do with an augmented reality product Apple may be testing, something like glasses with an overhead display.”
Another tech blog, SlashGear, speculated on how Apple might be using lasers in or near eyes: “There are several possibilities as to how the lasers mentioned in one of the incident reports might be involved in that, depending on the technologies Apple is using. For instance, laser projection – where graphics are created directly on the eye using a system of targeted laser light – has been used by several companies wanting to make a daylight-visible UI. Another alternative, and possibly a more likely one, is laser eye-tracking. That relies on using lasers to monitor eye movement in real-time, so that the wearer’s direction of gaze can be calculated. Such a system would be able to figure out what the user was looking at and potentially control a user-interface that way.”
From Gizmodo and SlashGear
On April 17 state police announced that Jonathan Edward Rayner was arrested and a laser pointer was retrieved. Rayner had been a passenger in another car on the highway. The 32-year-old man was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon, and with “assaulting-resisting-obstructing a police officer.” Both assault charges are felonies. The maximum penalty is four years in prison on the dangerous weapon charge, and 20 years in prison for assaulting a police officer.
Jonathan Edward Rayner
The incident happened on eastbound Interstate 94 in Wayne County at about 8 pm. The trooper was taken to a hospital “with vision problems and headache.” Later that day, state police tweeted “His vision has returned and he has been cleared. Other than a serious headache he should be back to work.”
From two tweets by Michigan State Police Metro Detroit, as initially reported in ClickOnDetroit.com. Announcement of the suspect’s name and the charges from the Detroit News, Fox 2 Detroit and the Morning Sun. Thanks to David Bothner for bringing this to our attention.
Raden also pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment in Island County Superior Court. He was ordered to serve 15 days in jail, perform 240 hours of community service, pay $3,740.89 in restitution to the master and chief mate, and serve 24 months probation.
On April 26 2016, the Coast Guard issued a civil penalty of $100,000 against Raden. According to a Coast Guard press release at the time, “Coast Guard officials are seeking civil penalties for violation of a safety and security zone as well as interference with the safe operation of the Tokitae [ferry] while it transited between Mukilteo and Clinton [in Washington state]. The final civil penalty amount [which turned out to be $9,500] will be determined by a Coast Guard Hearing Officer in Arlington, Va.”
A Coast Guard spokesperson told Cyrus Farivar of Ars Technica "Originally there were multiple charges that brought the maximum amount to $100,000 [as] referenced in the original [press] release. Ultimately the hearing officer has the final say and chose to only pursue the one charge for 'interfering with the safe operation of a vessel' and assessed a fine of $9,500."
Raden has previously been in trouble for misusing a laser. In July 2015, Raden and his friend Dillon Reisman, 27, were aiming a laser into house windows in Langley, Washington, in order to “cause alarm to anyone trying to sleep.” When confronted by police, Raden repeatedly aimed the laser beam into an officer’s face. Felony charges were not filed until November 18 2015.
In yet another incident, police said Raden was accused of using a laser and acid as weapons.
From the Chronicle, the San Juan Islander and Ars Technica. The original LaserPointerSafety.com story about the incident is here; an updated story with news about Raden’s arrest and the Coast Guard penalty is here. Additional details of Raden’s previous run-ins over misusing lasers can be found in an April 11 2016 HeraldNet story.
The incident occurred on MBC Music’s “Show Champion” television show. Video shows a brief, approximately 5-second period when a relatively dim light can be seen on Chaeyeon’s face:
An alleged screenshot on Koreaboo.com (below, top images) shows a brighter dot that is yellow with red glowing edges. However, the dot appears to be photoshopped since a video screenshot of the same moment captured by LaserPointerSafety.com shows a dimmer dot (below, bottom images):
From Koreaboo.com; oval added on Koreaboo version. Closeup on bottom.
Video capture at 00:28. Closeup on bottom.
The original video is here (light spot appears from approximately 00:25 to 00:30):
The Google-translated headline on a story from Korean website Dispatch.co.kr is “ ‘Fans rage, threatening safety’ … jeongchaeyeon laser beam terrorism”
According to Koreaboo.com, the alleged laser pointer came from an “anti-fan.” This is a concept where people who dislike celebrities will take negative actions against the celebrity or their fans. For example, one girl group member, Gan Mi-Yeon, received “scores of ‘fan mail’ filled with razors … along with pictures of her with her eyes taken out or letters written in blood.” In 2000, a boy band member was given a soda injected with bleach; his mother happened to drink it and was hospitalized.
Article in English from Koreaboo.com. Original article from Dispatch.co.kr, English translation from Google. Anti-fan information from the Ask A Korean blog.
The accident occurred at about 5:30 am on October 25 2016. Miranda Senters, 18, was driving her new car, bought one week prior, when the driver in front of her aimed a green laser beam over his shoulder towards her. Senters told KGW News “I just kept going back and forth a little bit, trying to keep out of the light.” The laser driver then went behind Senters’ car and aimed into the rear-view mirror: “…he’s shining it from the back of me into my eyes and I couldn’t see.”
Senters tried to get away but the other driver weaved in and out of lanes to keep up with her. While trying to avoid the light, Senters swerved to the shoulder and spun out. The other car crashed into her. A third driver hit a barrier when trying to avoid the stopped vehicles.
The laser car, an older Honda Civic, left the scene. In an Instagram post, state police asked the public to help them find the Civic.
State police photo showing Senters’ car with driver side damage, at the scene on Interstate 5.
Senters later told KPTV “He had a little laser and was trying to get it through my front window. I went blind because a green laser light — like my eyes still hurt from that, I can still see it…. I don’t understand how it’s a joke. It could have killed me.”
From KGW and KPTV. Thank you to George Palikaras for bringing this to our attention.
Note from LaserPointerSafety.com: This is the first well-documented case we’re aware of where a laser pointer aimed at a driver directly caused a crash. There was a fatal crash in 1998 which was partially blamed on a laser pointer, and an indirect reference to a three-car accident in 1999. There have also been a number of near-accidents and other car-related laser incidents which are listed here.
She was walking on a road, under a railway bridge, in Clydebank when the incident took place at about 10 pm on September 10 2016. The exact nature of the attack — whether money was demanded or if the lasing was random — was not described in news accounts.
The woman was taken to a hospital about 4 miles away. She later reported the assault to the police. News about the attack was not released until a week later.
News reports quoted a Police Scotland spokesperson as saying, “This was a completely unprovoked and senseless attack on this woman, which has left her blind in one eye. The youths responsible must be caught as soon as possible. To point a laser pen at someone is highly irresponsible. Extensive inquiries are ongoing to trace the two boys, with officers carrying out inquiries in the local area and studying CCTV footage to identify them.”
The attack comes just a few days after a man was arrested for aiming a laser pen at a Police Scotland helicopter in Clydebank on September 5 2016.
From BBC News and Glasgow Evening Times
Northport Police Chief Bill Ricca told LaserPointerSafety.com that the laser beam went into the officer’s face and eyes. The officer was temporarily blinded. He did not feel discomfort, but did go to an eye doctor for an exam which showed no ill effects.
Ricca said that the situation could have been much worse: “If the laser was aimed at the cop’s chest so the cop could see what was going on, I’m sure he might have shot at the kid. We would have had a real bad incident.”
The laser “gun” used in the incident.
An Internet search of similar “laser pointer guns” turns up a similar lighter costing about $7.00.
From Northport Patch and a September 16 2016 phone interview with Chief Bill Ricca
In a separate interview, one of the authors, ophthalmologist Dr. David Almeida, said these cases are “happening more frequently…. It was previously thought this was a one-in-a-million event. It's still probably a rare-to-uncommon reaction, but it's not a never reaction.”
All four children had foveal laser burns. Three of the children had potentially permanent vision loss. These are the cases:
- A 12-year-old boy looked into a green laser pointer for about a minute. He had decreased central vision in both eyes, with 20/20 vision in one eye and 20/30 in another. His vision and macular condition was found to be unchanged after 7 months.
- A 16-year-old teenager similarly had central vision loss in both eyes, after playing with a green laser pointer for about 30 seconds. He was first examined three days after the exposure, scars and atrophy were found on the retina. Two weeks later his vision has worsened. Visual acuity was 20/40 in both eyes with no improvement.
- A 9-year-old boy looked at the reflection of a green laser pointer in a mirror (essentially the same as a direct beam) for an unknown length of time. His vision was 20/50. He was treated with 1% prednisolone three times a day for two weeks. His vision improved to 20/30, but he still had “persistent abnormalities of the photoreceptors.”
- A 12-year-old boy looked into a red laser pointer for about 15 seconds. He had central vision loss, and 20/70 vision. He was given an injection of bevacizumab, which gradually improved his vision and symptoms. After 1 year, he had 20/20 vision.
The authors noted that laser pointers are more available, that users may not be aware of the dangers, and that some users may use pointers improperly.
Visible lasers less than 5 milliwatts (the U.S. legal standard for a laser to be marketed as a “pointer”) are considered to be generally safe due to the bright light reflex, which causes a person to blink and turn away from a bright light. So one question is why these children were injured by laser pointers.
One reason, according to the authors, is that “children increase their chance to retinal injury by staring at the laser beam without blinking or averting the eye for a prolonged duration.”
Another possible cause is that “the labeling of the power output of a laser point may be different from the device’s actual specifications.” They referred to a study of 122 laser pointers, where 90% of green pointers and 44% of red pointers were above the 5 milliwatt U.S. legal limit.
The study said that treatment options were “limited and also controversial.” Use of corticosteroids has shown “mixed results.” It may be enough to observe a patient over time, since many injuries will stabilize.
The authors recommended that laser pointer hazards “should be communicated to health professionals, school teachers, and guardians in an attempt to raise the public awareness of this emerging public health issue. Unsupervised use of these laser pointer devices among children should be discouraged, and there is a need for legislation to limit these devices in the pediatric population.”
From Retinal Injury Secondary to Laser Pointers in Pediatric Patients, Kunyong Xu, Eric K. Chin, Polly A. Quiram, John B. Davies, D. Wilkin Parke III and David R.P. Almeida, in Pediatrics; originally published online September 1, 2016; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2016-1188. A general interest article summarizing the study, with additional comments from Almeida and another ophthalmologist, is at HealthDay.com. The abstract of the Pediatrics article is below; click the “Read More…” link.
Click to read more...
This was the first report of Russian use of a laser to blind, which is prohibited by the United Nations “Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons”. The protocol bans the use of “laser weapons specifically designed, as their sole combat function or as one of their combat functions, to cause permanent blindness to unenhanced vision, that is to the naked eye or to the eye with corrective eyesight devices.”
From Ukraine Today; original story from Interfax-Ukraine
Lynsey McClure had imported the lasers from a Chinese supplier who said they complied with U.K. regulations limiting laser pens to 1 milliwatt of power. Her brother, who was not charged, sold them in a stall during a school fair in December 2015. The headmaster asked her brother to stop selling the laser, but he continued.
Jonathan Marshall, 7, purchased one of the lasers. It was later found to have an output of 127 milliwatts.
His mother said Jonathan was playing with it at home when the beam went into his eye for “a fraction of a second.” He has a retinal burn which interferes with his vision.
McClure pleaded guilty to nine product safety and consumer protection violations, including selling an unsafe product and failing to disclose the power of the laser.
The case appears to be the first where a person has been prosecuted for an illegal laser sale that led to an injury.
From the Sunday Times (subscription required to read the entire article) and the JC.com
Johnson went to a hospital and had an eye examination the next day. (No results were reported as of November 19.)
Because the bus has cameras, the video will be used to try to identify the perpetrator.
According to WABC, this is the first laser incident involving a New York City bus driver.
From a November 5 news account, it appears the injury occurred on Friday October 30 2015. The boy saw a general practitioner the following Monday, who then referred the teen to Ben Armitage, a Hobart (Tasmania) optometrist.
Armitage said the boy did not feel pain during the exposure, but he immediately lost visual acuity. “His vision is down to about 25 percent of what we call 20/20 vision and unfortunately at this stage it’s unlikely that vision is ever going to recover.”
Retina of one of the teen’s two eyes that were damaged by a self-inflicted laser pointer exposure. The injury occurred near the macula. At the center of the macula is the fovea, responsible for sharp central vision.
The damaged area is still swollen; Armitage hopes that some vision may be restored when the swelling recedes.
An Optometry Tasmania spokesperson warned parents not to allow children unsupervised access to laser pointers “and, in fact, better off trying to warn them off because we’ve just seen in this particular case where the future lifestyle of this young person has been seriously affected.”
From ABC (Australia) News
The 44-year-old driver stared into the laser several times, as he tried to identify the person holding the laser. He suffered blurred vision in his right eye immediately after the exposure, but waited 6 months before having his first complete eye exam.
The exam showed “spot-like retinal pigment epithelium disturbances temporal to the fovea of the right eye, with no abnormalities in his left eye.” The authors stated that “The subjective complaints and objective ophthalmological findings of this patient were consistent and strongly suggested that the repetitive exposure of the eye to the reflected laser spot 6 months previously had caused subtle but detectable injury to the macula.”
The authors concluded with two “Learning points”:
- “We suggest that no laser pointers of any class are made available to children, since they are unlikely to understand the risks of permanent retinal damage.”
- “For the safety of users and the general public, even low-energy handheld laser pointers should not be sold to children.”
The authors did not identify the location of the incident, but it may be Germany since three of the four authors’ institutions were in Germany. Additional analysis and commentary is below (click the “Read More…” link).
From Thanos S, Böhm MRR, Meyer zu Hörste M, et al. “Retinal damage induced by mirror-reflected light from a laser pointer” BMJ Case Reports. Retrieved online: 2015 Nov 05, doi:10.1136/bcr-2015- 210311.
Click to read more...
This map shows the ferries’ route. The map’s indicated positions of the ferries are from a later time and do NOT show their position during the laser incident.
At about 8:30 pm, the ferry M/V Tokitae (shown below) was approaching the Clinton (Wash.) Ferry Terminal. The captains were at wheelhouses on opposite ends of the 362-foot-long ferry. The one piloting the vessel was hit first, and suffered injuries.
According to Washington State Ferries Port Captain Jay Mooney, the man had “third-degree burns on his eyelid and his vision is still not quite back at 100 percent.” (A first-degree burn occurs only on the surface of the skin. A third-degree burn “extends to all layers of the skin,” according to the Wikipedia “Burn” article.)
The blue laser beam came from the slightly smaller ferry M/V Kitsap, which was traveling in the opposite direction.
A Kitsap deckhand had seen two men with the laser, and reported it to a Washington State Patrol trooper after arrival at the terminal in Mukilteo. One man told the officer that “it was a new toy and he was shining it at the water and didn’t mean to shine it at the vessel,” according to a WSP spokesperson. The trooper confiscated the laser pointer, shown here:
The spokesperson said “This is not a typical laser you’d see in a classroom or office setting.” She referenced the manufacturer’s packaging which says to use safety glasses, to not aim it at faces, and that it could light a match if held on target long enough.
A similar-looking laser sold by Lasers-Pointers.com is said to be 5000 mW (5 watts) and costs less than $200:
The two captains exposed to the laser light missed one day of work. The suspect who had the laser has not yet been charged, as of October 29 2015. Prosecutors are determining what charges would be appropriate.
UPDATED - November 9 2015: No arrests have yet been made and no charges have been filed, more than two weeks after a suspect was picked up. This is due in part to determining what jursidiction applied, since the laser incident took place on ferries in waters between different Washington state counties. Another difficulty was determining what charge to file. A KIRO radio story also noted the limitations of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which regulates lasers. While FDA attempts to block some high-powered lasers, imports can get through. And, “there aren't any penalties for buying or owning those illegally high-powered devices, nor are there requirements for training for non-medical, non-industrial devices.” From MyNorthwest.com
UPDATED - April 18 2015: 27-year-old Mark Raden was charged with assault in the third degree, for aiming at the ferry captains. In addition, he has a previous history of run-ins with law enforcement over laser misuse. Details are here.
An analysis of the laser’s power and capabilities is below (click on the “read more” link).
From KOMO News, Q13Fox, the Kitsap Sun and Wikipedia. Ferry drawings and route map from Washington State Department of Transportation website. Laser pointer info from Lasers-Pointers.com.
Italy: Prosecutor investigating manslaughter charges in three cases of eye damage to children from laser pointers
The cases were reported in mid-September 2015 by the St. Ursula Ophthalmology Hospital in Bologna. One of the children was 10; the other two were 13.
The injuries were caused by laser pointers bought by their parents (in two cases) or grandmother (in the third case) in markets in Florence or Bologna. One child had a slight loss of vision, another had significant loss in both eyes, and a third has almost lost his sight and is legally blind.
A public prosecutor, Valter Giovannini, has opened an investigation for aggravated manslaughter against unknown assailants. This seems to indicate that in all three cases, the laser pointer bought by or for the children was used against them by another person.
As a result of the report, Carabinieri NAS (Nuclei Antisofisticazioni e Sanità or “Anti Fraud Squad”), a special police force operating under the Italian ministry of health, seized fifteen illegally-sold laser pointers.
The hospital warned the public not to purchase green laser pointers sold “on the street, in the stalls and fairs.” A spokesperson said higher-powered pointers such as those aimed at players in stadiums were to be avoided. Professional laser pointers used in lectures should not be a problem.
From Corriere di Bologna. Thanks to Alberto Kellner Ongaro for bringing this to our attention.
According to the Covington News, the photographers told police that the laser light could possibly damage their camera sensors; they also “complained of headaches and said their eyes were starting to dilate.” Emergency medical responders told them “to take Tylenol for their headache.”
Because the local District Attorney’s office said that using a laser pointer was not a criminal offense (except when aimed at a law enforcement office or airplane), the photographers were told that it was a civil matter. No criminal charges were filed.
From the Covington News
A spokesperson said “"Luckily none of the firefighters have suffered any lasting effects from the lasers but this could have had serious consequences to the sight of those involved.”
From Express.co.uk and the Lancashire Telegraph
On April 16 2007, Jacob Keating stopped his train to get a trespasser off the tracks. A group of gang members attacked Keating and the train’s conductor with rocks. The jury found Amtrak negligent, as they did not provide a safe work environment. The area had been known to the company as “a party place” for years; Amtrak did not repair a fence or put up lighting to reduce trespassing.
According to the Sacramento Bee, “Along with the beating, the panel also held Amtrak liable for an incident in 2010, after Keating had returned to work, when someone in West Sacramento flashed a laser pointer into his engine compartment. Keating testified that he thought he was about to be shot and that the laser flash ignited a new round of post-traumatic stress disorder.”
Jurors assigned 6% of the blame to Keating, and 94% to Amtrak.
From the Sacramento Bee
A 12-year-old Austrian boy has suffered "massive and lasting" damage to his eyes after playing with a laser pointer, with his vision reduced by 60 percent, doctors said.
"We think that he was playing with a mirror and that the rays were reflected," said Yosuf El-Shabrawi, chief doctor at the Klagenfurt am Wörthersee clinic in Carinthia, southern Austria.
"His injuries cannot be treated. We can only hope that the worst of the injuries heal themselves and that his condition improves," El-Shabrawi said in a statement on Tuesday.
The boy's father bought the laser pointer on the Internet where it was advertised as a toy for playing with cats.
After a week the boy, named as Lukas, complained of a constant black mark in his field of vision.
The laser pointer in question was labelled as "Class 2" with an output under the European Union legal limit, but it lacked a so-called EN standardisation certificate, El-Shabrawi said.
AFP story on The Local, the Rakyat Post, iAfrica.com, and other news sources
DeVaul’s colleague was working as a volunteer when she was struck in the left eye by a “high-power, hand-held green laser, most likely a 1W 532 nm toy from China”.
Burning Man took place August 25 through September 1, 2014, at Black Rock Desert in northern Nevada. As of the September 5 post, DeVaul said the woman “still has not regained vision in her left eye and it is possible that she never will.”
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The injured person is from Romania. He was hit in the left eye for 1 second or less from a distance of about 2 feet (~60 cm). He saw a dot in the center of his left eye and could not read properly with that eye. He went to an eye doctor who said there was a small retinal burn. After four days he said the vision improved a bit. He was scheduled for a follow-up exam one month after the injury date.
He asked LaserPointerSafety.com about any possible outcome and treatment. Experts we consulted said his symptoms and vision will probably improve. They suggested a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as ibuprofen or indomethcin. More aggressive treatment such as steroids (orally or injected into the eye) have been done with “often good” results. The side effects of steroids should be considered. They also indicated that the follow-up examination is important.
The laser was marked “<3000mW”, “Wavelength 532nm +/-10” and “Class IIIb Laser Product”. The label is incorrect, since Class IIIb is between 5 and 500 mW. A laser that is in the thousands of milliwatts would be Class 4.
The laser appears to be a “JD-303” from China; a link is here. The cost is US $5-7 per laser in a minimum order of 30 pieces. (They can supply up to 20,000 lasers per week.) It has a nominal power of 1 watt. The Alibaba web site does say “This is not a toy for your children, this is a high intensity laser pointer for adults only!”
Excerpt from the webpage for the laser believed to have caused the injury
Thanks to Leon McLin and Bruce Stuck for their assistance in this case.
According to the abstract, “Clinically, three children had an acute vitelliform-like maculopathy which resolved to leave sub-foveal retinal pigment epithelium changes with reduced vision. One case was complicated by a choroidal neovascular membrane.”
- Case 1 was of a nine-year-old boy who on December 22 2013 was tested with normal vision of 6/5 (U.S. 20/17 -- better than 20/20) but on December 26 complained of vision loss and was found to have 6/12 (20/40) in the left eye and 6/15 (20/50) in the right eye. The family said he was given a laser pointer as a “toy” and had been playing with it on Christmas Day. The child denied looking directly into the laser beam. The family had three laser pens: a 57 mW blue 405nm, a 42 mW green 532 nm, and a 72 mW red 650nm. All exceeded the British Standard of 5 mW for a Class 3R laser. The boy was prescribed steroids. Nine months after the initial complaint, the best corrected vision was 6/9.5 (20/32), and optical coherence tomography showed persistent outer retinal layer disruption at the fovea. [The boy was later identified in press coverage as William Jackson, from Wadsley. Details are at The Star.]
- Case 2 was of an 11-year-old boy. He had decreased vision in both eyes of 6/7.5 (20/25). Eight weeks later he had sub-foveal retinal pigment epithelium changes. His vision was 6/12 (20/40) in the right eye and 6/15 (20/50) in the left eye. He said that a friend had aimed a laser into both of his eyes before the decreased vision occurred. The doctors were not able to examine what they characterized as the laser “toy”.
- Case 3 was of a 15-year-old girl. She aimed a laser pen into both eyes for 30 seconds. The next day she had scotomas (vision loss or spots) in both eyes. Her right eye was 6/7.5 (20/25) and her left eye was 6/6 (20/20). Upon examination, a vitelliform-like maculopathy (abnormality in the macula or central vision area) was seen. She did not return for follow-up visits.
- Case 4 was of an 8-year-old boy who had reduced vision of 6/12 (20/40) in his right eye, and normal vision of 6/6 (20/20) in his left eye. The right fovea was seen to have retinal pigment epithelial changes “consistent with laser burns.” The boy admitted he had played with a laser pointer a few months before, but said he did not point it directly at his eye.
- Case 5 was of a 13-year-old boy who had noticed declining vision in his right eye. It was found to be 6/36 (20/120); his left eye was 6/6 (20/20). He admitted aiming a laser pointer into his right eye. A fibrosed choroidal neovascular membrane was found at the right fovea.
The authors noted that “The retinal damage reported following such injuries is variable. This is due to variety of laser powers and wavelengths as well as ocular factors such as fundal pigmentation, blink responses, pupil size, and proximity of the laser burn to the fovea. Assessment of alleged laser eye injury requires accurate history and examination. Treatment for such laser retinal injuries is uncertain. Oral corticosteroids are sometimes administered.”
The authors stated that some laser devices are marketed as “toys”. They said they are aware of other children in the U.K. with retinal injuries from imported laser pointers. They conclude: “We suggest that children should not be given laser pointers as toys.”
From “‘Toy’ laser macular burns in children”, in Eye (2014) 1-4, by N. Raoof, TKJ Chan, NK Rogers, W Abdullah, I Haq, SP Kelly and FM Quhill. A downloadable PDF version is here. A story from the Bolton News gives some additional comments from author SP Kelly.
The case was reported in JAMA Ophthalmalogy under the title “Ocular Safety of Recreational Lasers.” Authors Glenn Yiu, Sujit Itty and Cynthia Toth are with the Department of Ophthalmology at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina.
They described the boy’s injuries as being caused by a Spyder III Pro Arctic “a class 4, high-powered 1250 mW laser that is manufactured from the 445 nm blue diode of a dismantled home theater projector and that is commercially available for online purchase from overseas.” This brand of laser is manufactured by the company Wicked Lasers; an 800 mW version was reviewed here.
In the case they described, “the adult directed the laser at the child’s eyes in jest, unaware of the harmful consequences.”
A copy of the safety label that appears on a Wicked Laser Spyder III Pro Arctic, containing the IEC and U.S. FDA-mandated wording for a Class 4 laser: “Avoid eye or skin exposure to direct or scattered radiation”
According to the authors, “imaging studies suggest that the laser damage was limited to superficial retinal vessels with no involvement of the underlying retinal pigment epithelium or choroid. To our knowledge, this is the first report of a continuous wave laser in the visible spectrum–damaging retinal vessels without affecting the retinal pigment epithelium, the site where damage from visible lasers typically occurs.”
They speculate that this may be caused by greater absorption of shorter wavelength lasers by hemoglobin, or a defocusing of the laser due to chromatic aberration and myopia in a child.
The authors conclude that “with the expanding use of lasers in nonoccupational or recreational settings, escalation of laser safety awareness and consumer laser regulations is paramount to prevent future ocular laser injuries.”
From JAMA Ophthalmology, published online January 09, 2014. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2013.5647. Thanks to Dr. David Hunter for bringing this to our attention.
The injury to her fovea is permanent. In a machine-translated statement, she said “All fuzzy horrors bothers me the light. I sense what I see on the screen, but I can not really read and, of course, I dare not drive.”
The clinic says this is the first case it has seen of permanent retinal damage by a laser pointer.
The woman’s husband purchased three lasers in a tourist area of Shanghai, for €30 (USD $40). One emitted a red beam, one a blue beam and one a green beam. The spower was said to be between 500 and 6,000 milliwatts (1/2 to 6 watts). There were no user warnings on the laser.
The clinic believes the laser was not aimed directly in the eye, but was probably reflected off an object. While the article and machine-translation are not clear, it is possible that one or more of the lasers used a diffraction grating to create multiple “stars”. The article discusses lasers that “allow decorative figures with the laser on the surface” and then quotes the victim as saying “Ours were beautiful: creating colorful stars in the sky.”
From LaVanguardia.com. Original article in Spanish here; Google machine translation into English here. Thanks to Jose-Maria Silvestre on the LinkedIn Laser Safety Professionals group for bringing this to our attention.
A December 2006 incident has come to our attention. A 15-year-old Japanese boy suffered a retinal injury and visual loss after deliberately looking into a 5 mW violet (410 nm) light emitting diode for a total of about 40 seconds. The LED was in a pen was sold as a toy called “Secret Pen”. The toy appears to consist of an LED light which can excite ink that is invisible under ordinary light but which fluoresces under ultraviolet and near-UV light. The 410 nm wavelength caused photochemical damage to the retina.
According to a 2011 paper in Retinal Cases & Brief Reports, the LED was aimed into the teen’s eye from a distance of about 1 cm. It was held there for about 20 seconds as he deliberately stared into the light. This exposure was repeated the next day. About two weeks later, decreased vision (20/50 on the Snellen scale) was noted in the right eye.
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The laser pointer had no markings so the power is unknown. This also will be studied so the strength of the beam is known.
According to police, the laser pointer attack was a dangerous assault. If there is also significant permanent damage to eyesight, a charge of aggravated assault may be considered.
From Schwarzwaelder-bote.de (original German version and Google machine translation into English)
Three policemen were among those reporting injuries. Two of the policemen were examined due to acute symptoms.
According to a spokesperson, this is the first time that laser “weapons” have been used in the Street Parade.
Partially as a result, within a few days a Swiss police association called for classification of higher-powered laser pointers as weapons.
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Coast Guard boatcrew targeted with laser near Clearwater, Fla.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A boatcrew from Coast Guard Station Sand Key was targeted with a laser from the shore approximately one mile southwest of Clearwater, Sunday [August 11 2013].
The station informed the station's watchstanders at 10:18 p.m., reporting the 25-foot Response Boat — Small boat crew experienced a three to four second blue, green laser burst while on patrol in the area. The entire crew experienced loss of night vision and half the crew received a direct hit from the laser.
The boat crew had to return to the station and receive eye exams.
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Trenton Demoor was angry because a coffee shop in Parkland, Washington refused him service at the drive-through window, because Demoor was on foot. He began screaming at employees. He then aimed a laser pointer at the car when the driver asked what the argument was about. Demoor yelled “You guys want to get shot?”, and then lased two of the passengers.
He was arrested on five counts of illegally discharging a laser and possession of methamphetamines. Bail was set at $30,000.
An SBB spokesperson says in the past two years, laser attacks have been mounting. A spokesperson for St. Gallen police said such attacks also occur on helicopter pilots, and air rescue units have been equipped with laser eye protection goggles.
From 20 Minuten (original German text and Google-translated English text)
From Stuff.co.nz via Taranaki Daily News. The full text of the letter is below. Note: LaserPointerSafety.com is listing this incident as part of our coverage of non-aviation laser misuse; in this case, to give an idea of what it is like for someone to suffer a laser attack.
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From the Shields Gazette
The teen was treated at Landspitali University Hospital in Reykjavik. The head physician at the Department of Ophthalmology says the hospital has never seen such a severe case of laser pointer injury.
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He contacted police, who were able to catch up with him and the other car. The first driver said he had blurry vision in his right eye and was going to follow up with his eye doctor.
The driver of the other car, Michael R. Fierke, 26, was found to have a “small package for a laser” on the front seat. Fierke was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.
The incident occurred April 9 2013 in Downers Grove, Illinois, a village 22 miles west of Chicago.
From the Downers Grove Patch
The RCMP said the woman may have suffered unspecified eye damage in the February 27 2013 assault. They asked for the public’s assistance in finding the female driver and male passenger of the Audi.
From The Province
Tris Thomson of San Francisco was in the Mexican Riviera on a sailboat at sunset, when someone in an apartment building aimed a green laser at the boat. Thomson felt “a slight bit of pain in the eyeball. A little searing, like almost you get burnt real quickly or something,” he told KTVU TV, which reported that an “eye x-ray” showed a black blotch on his retina.
The news story quoted ophthalmologist Dr. Vineet Batra as saying that he “sees patients injured by laser pointers about once a month.”
From KTVU.com. For an analysis of this case by LaserPointerSafety.com, click the “Read More…” link. Thanks to Capt. Dan Hewett of the FDA/CDRH for bringing this to our attention, and to Greg Makhov of LSDI for assistance with the analysis.
Retinal specialist Dr. Ramana Moorthy saw a “yellowish kind of spot here with yellow black flecks [that] shouldn’t be there.” She said the injury was permanent. The boy’s father said he considered the laser pointer a toy, and that he had no idea that laser light was dangerous. He said other parents should throw away their children’s pointers.
From WTHR.com. Thanks to Jochen Pernsteiner for bringing this to our attention.
Afterwards, the boy could not see clearly and had a black spot in his visual field. He kept this from his parents for about three weeks, after which the boy was seen by Professor Stefan Dithmar and Dr. Stefanie Pollithy at the University of Heidelberg Department of Ophthalmology. Their diagnosis was “acute bilateral impaired vision and central scotoma.”
A journal article in Der Ophthalmologe has more information, but the full article requires a subscription. Jochen Pernstainer, who told LaserPointerSafety.com about the case, kindly provided several details from the article:
- The schoolyard exposure lasted several seconds
- The laser pointer was measured at 55 milliwatts
- The boy had impaired vision and a black spot on both eyes
- Nine weeks after the exposure his vision got a bit better
Fundoscopic photos of the 11-year-old boy’s left and right eyes. Larger versions can be seen here.
Dithmar told a local newspaper that the German Product Safety Act prohibits the sale of products that might cause harm to health, but “there is little that you cannot get on the Internet.”
Press report from die Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung (in German; an English Google-translated version is here). Journal article in Der Ophthalmologe, Vol. 109, No. 9 (2012), 907-910, entitled “Akute bilateral Visusminderung kit Zentralskotom bei einem 11-jährigen Jungen.” Thanks to Jochen Pernsteiner for bringing this to our attention.
A Harbor Police spokesperson told LaserPointerSafety.com “neither officer was injured in the latest incident” and “the laser used in this incident was much less powerful than the one used” in the May 4 2012 lasing, when two San Diego Harbor Police officers were taken to UC San Diego Medical Center after their boat was lased. One officer was said to have had a temporary injury in one eye.
Approximate locations of the lasers (green triangles) and Harbor Police boats (red squares).
Officers Jennifer McMaster and Robert Twardy were patrolling near the Shelter Island Fishing Pier when both illuminated directly in their right eye. Twardy said “I noticed that I had a bright spot, like a residual flash that you kind of get when a camera flashes in your eye.” He suffered a “burning sensation”. Both officers were taken to UC San Diego Medical Center.
Twardy said that McMaster had a more direct hit, was in pain, and complained of blindness. She had possible burns to her retinas, and took time off to recover, according to the Los Angeles Times. She will make a full recovery, according to an NBC San Diego story. [See Update 1, at the bottom of this story after clicking the “Read More” link, for more medical information.]
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The 5-hour confrontation began the evening of March 17 2012. St. Patrick’s Day parties “spilled into the street” in an area near Fanshawe College. The crowd grew to about 1,000 people. A brush fire was started, and a CTV news truck was set on fire. To slow fire crews, some persons threw beer bottles, bricks, wooden planks, tires, rim and other debris. In addition, said London’s police chief, “members of the crowd used laser pointers aimed at our officers’ eyes to try to disrupt our response.” A spectator said that the crowd, made up primarily of students, “wanted to egg on the police.”
A person aims a laser during the London, Ontario riot. From a photo gallery at The Star.
From the Toronto Sun. This is possibly the same laser beam; note glow from fire to the left, behind the officers.
The full extent of the laser misuse is not known. While the police chief indicated there were multiple lasers involved, the National Post said “One rioter attempted to blind the officers with a high-powered green laser.” Media reviewed by LaserPointerSafety.com found a single laser being used in each photo or video. Although some bystanders and police suffered minor injuries from thrown objects during the rioting, there were no reports of laser-caused eye effects or injuries. Eleven persons were arrested at the scene; charges included assaulting police. It is not known if any laser assault charges were brought.
In the video above, green laser light can be seen on a student, beginning at about 1:48. At 1:52, a single beam is shown being waved around at approximate head level. From 1:59 to 2:05, the beam is rapidly scanned towards stationary police officers who are monitoring the crowd. The beam in the video appears to come from the same person or area as shown in the photos above.
Similar riots occurred in the same area of Fleming Drive in 2007 and 2009, blamed on a high concentration of alcohol-fueled Fanshawe students. The 2012 riot is expected to cost London $100,000 in manpower and repair costs.
From CBC News, Globe and Mail, Toronto Sun, The Star, and the National Post. Thanks to Mathieu Gauthier for helping bring this to our attention.
UPDATED, April 20 2012: Thirty-eight people are facing a total of 85 charges in the incident, thus far. Brian Nuccitelli, 18, faces three charges including two relating to misuse of a laser pointer: “possessing a weapon dangerous to public peace” and “assaulting a police officer with a weapon”. Police said the pointer was aimed at officers’ faces. They said “one officer was injured and continues to receive medical attention as the result of the laser being directed at his eyes.” In addition to Nuccitelli, police are also looking for another person who aimed a laser at officers. From lfpress.com
In early February 2012, a male student was flashing a number of students with a laser pointer. Noelle-Marie Harrington, 16, was flashed in the eye. She went to an emergency room and to an ophthalmologist for evaluation. As of early March 2012, her vision is back to normal.
The boy was suspended for two days. However, the boy’s friends bullied Harrington. She had previously been bullied in middle school, as well as in high school. Harrington’s mother said the school was unable to stop the bullying, and in early March she withdrew her daughter from Attleboro High School.
From the Sun Chronicle
Patrolman Jason Blustein was driving to investigate a burglar alarm when the beam went into his left eye and he “briefly lost vision.” Blustein continued to the alarm site where he found it was a false alarm. He then went to the home where the beam had been aimed from a second-floor window. He spoke with a woman who called her son downstairs. A laser pointer was confiscated and the boy was arrested. Police say “the juvenile was upset and said he didn’t mean it.”
From the Montville NJ Patch
A police spokesman said the laser light “not only distracted the driver and potentially damaged his eye, but it also could have had serious safety consequences for the passengers. The driver's attention was averted from his job of safely controlling the train…. He is currently awaiting the results of medical assessments on his eye and is in some degree of pain. We are hopeful he'll make a full recovery but, at this stage, he is in some discomfort."
Police are asking for assistance in finding two youths seen on a footbridge off Southfield Road in White City.
From this is Gloucestershire and BBC News Gloucestershire
UPDATE February 14 2012: The train driver “is recovering and should return to work next week”, according to a spokesperson for First Great Western quoted by BBC News Gloucestershire. The story also said that there had been six laser-train incidents on the FGW network from January 2011 through February 14 2012, and that the February 9 incident had the most serious impact on the driver.
(UPDATE March 14 2012: The hobbyist reported “I still have the blind spot, and was effectively told by the ophthalmologist that it would probably be there the rest of my life. That doesn't bother me TOO much, since it isn't very inhibiting.”)
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"Everyone is speaking badly of me, but why don't people criticize the lasers that were being aimed into my eyes?” Ronaldo said at a press conference. He intends to ask the Union of European Football Associations to take action to ban laser pointers from stadiums.
From Bettor.com, ESPN, and Yahoo!Sports
The girl did not immediately report the October 5 2011 incident, but waited until after she had pain in her eye and blurred vision. Her parents took her to the hospital and then to an eye specialist. They reported the incident to police on October 11. As of October 12, she still had blurred vision; the status of her eye is unknown.
The officer had been speaking at Union High School in Union, S.C. on the topic of negative classroom behavior.
From WYFF4.com and GoUpstate.com
As of September 15, police have not found the perpetrator. There was a crackdown in the state of Western Australia in 2009. It is illegal to “cause fear or alarm in a driver by directing a laser pointer at a vehicle.” The penalty can be up to seven years in jail and an AUS $36,000 fine.
The incident took place September 11 2011 at the Lausen train station, in the Swiss canton of Basel Country.
Police called for witnesses and issued a reminder that Class 3 and 4 laser pointers are considered dangerous by law. Sales of Class 3 and 4 lasers are illegal. Currently, owning or using them is not illegal, but a modification of the law is underway.
From World Radio Switzerland
Dr. Sharp and the boy’s mother both called for restrictions on laser pointers in New Zealand. The boy’s laser was purchased in Thailand for $15 while on a family holiday in January 2011. The date of the laser injury is not known.Click to read more...
The laser pointer had been bought during a trip outside of the country. Swedish law prohibits sale of pointers in stores, and their possession in a public place requires a permit.
The incident happened in Borås, at about 1 am on July 30 2011. News reports did not say if the guard was working for the apartment complex, or if he was a passerby who happened to be driving past the apartments.
From The Local
Corr characterized the incident as an assault, and said there should be a specific law to protect ambulance staff. The perpetrator has not been found.
From the Belfast Telegraph
Guy Bassett aimed the laser out of his trailer at the Gilroy Garlic USA RV Park. He was charged with assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer, and with pointing a laser at an officer. He was also arrested on an unrelated misdemeanor charge of battery.
From the Gilroy Patch and KRON-TV
News reports said the driver was “in visible pain.” A photo showed the driver on his stopped bus, holding his eye. He told paramedics he had “disturbed vision”. He was taken to Sydney Hospital and was released the next day, Saturday March 12 2011.
Police are looking for the perpetrator.
From the Sunday Telegraph
Strom was charged with two counts of second-degree assault and one count of unlawful use of a weapon. He pled guilty to one second-degree assault count, as part of a plea bargain reducing his sentence from the minimum six years, to three years.
Howard testified that during the incident he feared for his life since lasers are often used on weapons. He “pulled his duty weapon and prepared to return fire.”
From OregonLive.com. Thanks to Daniel Hewett of the FDA for bringing this to our attention.
The school board president says that the laser could only have come from apartments overlooking the school, but “we do not know if it is the act of a madman or a child struggling with a dangerous toy.” Police are searching for the perpetrator.
After the second incident, teachers lowered the blinds in the classroom. The report also notes other “increasing” incidents where laser pointers are used against pilots and football (soccer) goalies.
From Corriere Della Sera, “Laser negli occhi dei bimbi”. Thanks to Alberto Kellner Ongaro for bringing this to our attention.
More than two weeks after the accident, he reports “... there are no identifiable irregularities. I am certain there is permanent damage in the spot, but it is so far out in [my] peripheral vision, that it is just not noticeable. So I have officially ceased worrying about it. Lesson learned.”Click to read more...
On Sunday [Nov 21 2010] the police in Den Bosch arrested a 14-year-old boy who probably shone with a laser pen from his parental home, into the eyes of a bus driver.
The 46-year-old driver got a eye damage and had to stop the bus. The victim was treated in hospital. It is still unclear whether the injury is permanent.
A police spokeswoman has reported Monday. In the bedroom officers found the boy had approximately one hundred blanks [bullet blank rounds, which are illegal in Netherlands]. The boy was sent home after interrogation.
Dutch original story from De Telegraaf Binnenland, Nov. 22 2010
Thanks to Maurice Wortel for bringing this to our attention.
EDE -Tuesday A 16-year-old student from Ede is arrested for assault by the police in his hometown. The boy would have shined a laser pointer in the face of a person working at his school and caused eye damage.
The 61-year-old victim was forced doctor's treatment because of injury. The police was warned by the school, and the 16-year-old Edenaar was arrested . The boy confessed and after hearing he was transferred to his parents pending a decision of justice.
The laser pen was confiscated.
Dutch original story from EdeStad.nl, Sept. 29 2010
Thanks to Maurice Wortel for bringing this to our attention.
An examination two weeks later showed injuries to both retinas. There was severe vision loss in the left eye and 20/50 vision in the right. His left eye was injected with ranibizumab which helped improve vision to 20/25 after four weeks. The right eye improved on its own to 20/32.
The left eye clearly shows damage from a self-inflicted exposure to a 150 mW green laser pointer.
The report appeared in a letter published September 9 2010 in the New England Journal of Medicine.
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The burn site on the youth’s right eye
They join many others who have fallen victim to a device that experts say is too dangerous to be used by the untrained.
At the Paris Indoor Tennis Open two weeks ago, the Australian Patrick Rafter became a victim. A laser beam shone by a spectator was directed at the player's face. The game had to be halted while he recovered. Other sportsmen and pop stars have been targeted too.
In South Yorkshire one bus company has recorded 32 separate incidents in the past month. Drivers say they have been picked out by people intent on causing an accident.Click to read more...