A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use

Scotland: Teen left with impaired vision after classmate aims laser pen at her

A 13-year-old girl suffered a permanent eye injury after a classmate aimed a laser pointer at her at close range, while on a school bus headed to Fortrose Academy, about 6 miles northeast of Inverness.

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

US: Calif. teacher loses credentials for, among other things, shining laser pointer in students' eyes

A special education teacher in the Ontario-Montclair (Calif.) School District had his teaching credentials revoked in December 2016, for abusing his students including an allegation that he shined a 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

UK: Woman sentenced for illegal laser imports that injured boy's eyesight

A 47-year-old Surrey woman was sentenced in mid-July 2016 to 240 hours of community service for illegally importing 300 over-powered lasers. One of the lasers was sold for £6 (USD $9) at a school Christmas fair and subsequently caused an eye injury to a seven-year-old boy.

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.

Lynsey McClure laser
Lynsey McClure


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

US: Ohio 7th grader may be expelled for gun-shaped laser pointer

A 7th grade student in Huber Heights, Ohio was arrested April 23 2013 for bringing a laser pointer shaped like a realistic gun to Weisenborn Middle School. The unnamed 12- or 13-year-old boy pointed the “laser gun” at two other students who became frightened and told the principle. Police arrested the boy; he faces criminal charges in juvenile court. He also may be expelled due to violating the school district’s policies about weapons or look-alikes.

gun-shaped laser pointer
An example of a gun-shaped laser pointer. This particular unit emits a 100 mW beam and costs USD $68. An Internet search turns up a wide variety of gun-shaped novelty and toy laser pointers, including some that also have a lighter built in, and a gag pointer that shocks the user when they pull the trigger.


From WDTN.com

US: UPDATED - 5th grader suspended for shining laser pointer in class

A 10-year-old elementary school student was suspended for three days, for shining a laser pointer on a classroom white board. Two days were spent out of school, and one day in the principal’s office. In addition, she was required to take a violence-deterrence class.

Laser pointers are forbidden in schools under California Penal Code section 417.27(b): “No student shall possess a laser pointer on any elementary or secondary school premises unless possession of a laser pointer on the elementary or secondary school premises is for a valid instructional or other school-related purpose, including employment.”
Click to read more...

US: 8th grader suspended for waving gun-shaped laser pointer

A 13-year-old Indiana boy was suspended for a week from his school, for waving a laser pointer in the school’s parking lot on September 11 2014. According to police, the pointer “could look like a gun.” (It is unknown if the pointer actually was gun-shaped like in the photo on this page, or if it was a different shape, such as the cylinder of a barrel, that could be mistaken for a gun, or part of a gun.)

A police spokesman said that laser pointers “are very dangerous in and of themselves, but anytime you have anything that looks like a firearm it’s obviously a danger and would be considered a credible threat.”

The boy obtained the laser pointer from a classmate, who was given a three day suspension.

A news story noted that it is illegal in Indiana to point a laser at a police officer, and recounted a previous incident when a student was arrested for shining a laser in the face of a school liaison officer.

From NWI.com

US: High school report of handgun turns out to be a laser pointer

Police officers responded to a call at a Kansas City, Kansas school on May 8 2014. A person with a handgun and laser sight had been reported at Wyandotte High School. Surveillance video, however, showed that the “suspect” had a laser pointer and not a gun.

From the Kansas City Star

Japan: Teen injured by LED pen "toy" held 40 seconds in his eye

NOTE: The injury described herein was NOT caused by a laser but by a light-emitting diode (LED). We are including it here because the measured power of 5 mW is similar to laser pointers, and because in mid-2013 the FDA proposed to regulate toys containing lasers. This case of an LED-caused injury may stimulate arguments on both sides. Additional discussion is in blue at the end of this story.

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.
Click to read more...

Germany: Two teens attacked with laser pointer at school; eye damage noted

Two teenage students had a laser pointer’s beam deliberately and repeatedly aimed into their eyes while at school in Freudenstädt on September 23 2013. They both noticed vision problems and were examined by an eye doctor. One student had deteriorated visual acuity. The impact on the other student was not known and will be clarified by future studies.

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)

US: Student charged with laser pointer assault at high school

On Feb. 27 2013, a youth was involved in a laser pointer incident at Brookfield (CT) High School. Around March 19 2013, he was formally charged in juvenile court with 3rd degree assault and with illegal use of a laser pointer. The name of the youth and details were not released.

From the Brookfield Patch

Germany: 11-year-old suffers eye injury from classmates playing

An 11-year-old boy suffered “irreparable damage” from a laser pointer deliberately aimed at close range by his classmates. The children were on a Heidelberg school playground. The laser was aimed from a meter or so, first into one eye and then into the other.

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

laser injury 11-yr-old boy left eye laser injury 11-yr-old boy right eye
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.

US: Mass. teen bullied, injured with laser pointer leaves school

An Attleboro, Mass. teenager has left her high school after repeated bullying culminated in a laser pointer incident which left her with pain and blurred vision in one eye.

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

US: 12-year-old charged with assault for laser pointer attack on classmate

A 12-year-old male was charged with felonious assault, for shining a laser pointer into the eye of a 13-year-old female classmate at Monticello Middle School in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.

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.

From
Cleveland.com

US: Student injures policeman's eye during class lecture

A 16-year-old student has been charged with third-degree assault and battery after he aimed a red laser beam into the eye of a police officer. The officer said he immediately felt pain and had blurred vision. The officer confiscated the laser. He “received only a minor injury and is OK.”

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

Italy: Pre-school hit twice, parents fearful

A pre-school in Rome was targeted twice by laser beams in a single month, sending students to the hospital for examinations both times. According to an Italian newspaper report, “the laser beam coming from outside the building hit them in the eyes, hurting them”. The exams showed “eyes puffy and watery, fortunately no serious injuries to the cornea.”

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.