A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use
An additional six counts of aggravated misdemeanor assault, related to the felony counts, can proceed since they were filed on time.
The protester is accused of aiming a laser at the eyes of several University of Iowa police officers during an August 31 2020 protest in Iowa City. The officers reported temporary vision loss, headaches and "other health problems."
To convict on the misdemeanor counts, prosecutors will have to show that the protester intended to inflict serious injury on the officers when he aimed a laser at them.
The 25-year-old protester was named Matthew Bruce at the time of the protests, and said he has since changed his name to Mate Farrakhan Muhammad.
From The Gazette and the Des Moines Register
Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois
One hundred fifty people called for abolition of the university police department. "This Halloween protest was more aggressive than those by previous Northwestern protest groups. According to information from City Manager Erika Storlie, members of the group came with umbrellas, fireworks, spray-paint cans and laser pointers. Some threw rocks or lit fireworks in the direction of police officers; others shined the laser pointers in the eyes of the officers." From a November 1 2020 story in the Evanston RoundTable.
A laser was pointed at a U.S. Park Police helicopter during protests in front of the Fourth District police station. Also, Washington, DC police said "one of their officers was injured when a protester shone a laser in his eyes" on October 28. From a November 1 2020 story from FOX5.
San Diego, California
38-year-old Stephen Glenn McLeod aimed a laser at a San Diego Police Department helicopter multiple times, during a protest on August 28 2020. He was arraigned October 20 on a federal felony charge which has a penalty of up to five years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine. His next court date is November 20. From an October 20 2020 story from NBC San Diego.
San Diego, California
24-year-old Rudy Alvarez was charged with aiming a laser at a San Diego Police Department helicopter during a large demonstration in the Hillcrest area of San Diego, on June 6 2020. The crew said the light impeded their ability to safety operate the helicopter. From a June 10 2020 press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of California.
Beginning in June 2020, there were many protests in Portland with significant use of lasers. A general internet search will find these. LaserPointerSafety.com has focused on stories about alleged eye injuries (most were temporary flashblindness; none were permanent) and about arrests. Searching for the tag Portland will find the LaserPointerSafety.com stories.
The unnamed teen initially had vision loss for several minutes due to flashblindness (looking into a bright light).
Five months later the boy went to an Ohio State University ophthalmologist due to continually-blurred vision with partial loss of vision in his right eye. Vision tests showed his left eye vision was normal. But if looking at text with his right eye, a single letter would be missing. When using only his left eye, or when using both eyes together, he could see the missing letter.
A standard clinical exam showed lesions in both eyes that were diagnosed as lesions in the macula, the area within the retina that we use for our central vision. The macula has the most and densest packing of light-detecting cones.
Tests done six months after the first doctor visit showed "marked improvement" in both eyes.
Further analysis was done with a custom-built adaptive optics optical coherence tomography scanning laser ophthalmoscope that is only one of five in the United States. This gives a very high-resolution view of the retina — much better than the human eye or more conventional retinal imaging techniques.
The AO-OCT-SLO image taken 11 months after the laser exposure showed damage to some of the macular cones. The ophthalmologist said "There's just nothing left there. The affected areas are devoid of cones."
AO-OCT-SLO image of lesions A through E with small sites of cone loss (B, C, and D) in the teen's right eye. Each white dot is an individual cone cell, which is about 1/20th the width of a human hair. There are around six to seven million cones in the retina. Lesions A and E are about as wide as two hairs; lesions B-D are less than the width of a hair. Image source: Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. / Ohio State University
Another AO-OCT-SLO image taken nine months later showed the lesions decreased in size, from 3.7% to 23.8% compared to the first image. "However, the longer-term prognosis is likely permanent scarring," according to the report.
Original report in Retinal Cases & Brief Reports, summarized in an Ohio State News story. Other stories about this appeared in Science Alert and Interesting Engineering,
US: 113 federal agents in Portland said to be injured by protesters' lasers; none were permanently blinded
All officers recovered their sight, according to deputy director Ken Cuccinelli, speaking on August 4 2020. This appears to include the "three officers who currently have eye injuries and [who] may not recover sight." This statement was said on July 21 2020 by a Federal Protective Services official. (FPS is a division of DHS.) Some persons who repeated this, such as the White House press secretary and the Attorney General, repeated the "may not" qualifier, while others — generally news or commentators — said flatly that officers were permanently blinded.
Cuccinelli said "We've had a number of officers who have days-long blindness. So far they've all come back, if you will. But you also get what's called flash blindness … where you can't quite see your entire field of vision for a period." [As explained below, flash blindness is not an "eye injury" and should not have been included in the total of 113 "eye injuries.]
Cuccinelli told the Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution that protesters began aiming at police from closer distances. Since laser beams spread out, this reduces the spread and thus increases the hazard potential. Protesters do this, he said, so police cannot identify suspects.
Click to read more...
Cuccinelli demonstrated what he called a "commercial grade" laser by aiming it into his hand and saying it got hot within a second or two. He said such a laser could be purchased on Amazon.com.
Claims of eye injuries
Officers were attempting to defend the building. "When [Federal Protective Service] officers responded to put out these fires, glass bottles were thrown and lasers – which can cause permanent blindness – were shined in their eyes. We have three officers who currently have eye injuries and they may not recover sight in those eyes from those laser attacks," said FPS Deputy Director of Operations Richard Cline.
The assertion was repeated on July 24 by White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany: "….tragically, three federal officers were likely left permanently blinded by the rioters using lasers pointed directly into their eyes." On July 28, Attorney General William P. Barr, testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, wrote in his prepared remarks that "A number of federal officers have been injured, including … three who have suffered serious eye injuries and may be permanently blind."
Some news sources and commentators stated flatly that the officers are permanently blind. Lost or ignored was the fact that there was only one official statement on the prognosis ("they currently have eye injuries and they may not recover sight").
Reporters noted red, green and purple laser beams aimed at officers through the courthouse doors. At least one person may be charged. According to the Associated Press, "[c]ourt papers in a federal case against a man accused of shining a laser in the eyes of Federal Protective Service agents show that Portland police turned him over to U.S. authorities after federal officers identified him." ProPublica reported that the charging documents said an agent "reported seeing spots in his eyes for 15 minutes after the laser attack. [As of November 9 2020, LaserPointerSafety,com is aware of two cases against individuals, one from June 2020 and one from August 2020.]
Force authorized against laser attacks
In response, Customs and Border Protection has authorized the use of "less-lethal force" against protesters with lasers. CBP said in a memo that pepper spray balls or beanbag shotguns are allowed because lasers aimed at eyes or through camera lenses are "remarkably dangerous because of their concentrated energy."
Protesters using lasers would first be issued a verbal warning. Then CBP agents targeted would decide whether less-lethal force is justified. The calculation should be based on the crime committed and the level of danger.
“Officers/agents are authorized by law to use objectively reasonable force to effect the arrest and protect against harm to the officer/agent or others,” wrote Charles A. Bishop, who oversees the agency’s law enforcement compliance directorate. “Officers/agents should consider all reasonable tools, tactics and equipment to cease an assault with a handheld laser in accordance with CBP Use of Force Policy and U.S. constitutional standards.”
Bishop said without a threat of serious bodily injury or death, “CBP does not recognize the threat of handheld visible lasers as one that would require a deadly force response.”
Eyewear purchased to defend against lasers
To defend themselves the Federal Protective Service is buying 1,000 pairs of Stingerhawk FT-2 Laser Protective Eyewear from Revision Military. In its sole-source contract document dated July 10 2020, FPS said "readily accessible and affordable" lasers can cause dark spots, hazy vision, headaches or retinal bleeding. The contract also noted that Seattle police officers who used laser-resistant glasses "expressed that they were very effective."
From Fox News (initial blinding report), the New York Post (White House statement), Politico (AG Barr statement), the Associated Press via MSN (court papers), ProPublica (15 minutes of spots), the Washington Times (CBP response), Williamette Week (FPS eyewear)
For more information, see the page Laser use during protests and LaserPointerSafety.com news articles about non-laser eye injuries during protests.
UPDATE AUGUST 4 2020: The three officers said to possibly have permanent blindness appear to be OK, with their sight recovered. In Senate testimony, a Department of Homeland Security official said there were 113 eye injuries to federal officers in Portland, and "[s]o far they've all kind of come back". The Federal Protective Service is part of DHS, so the official's statement would have included the three injured officers.
Suspect Arrested After Pointing Laser Pointer At Officer
On July 16th, 2020, around 8:40 a.m., a LAPD police officer in full uniform was in the area of 2nd St. and San Pedro when he felt a burning sensation in his eye. The officer believed the burning sensation may have been caused by a laser pointer. He was able to locate the suspect, 45-year-old Douglas Meyer, on a balcony in a nearby building. Additional officers went to the building and took Meyer into custody. Meyer was booked for Assault with a Deadly Weapon on a Police Officer, booking #5973501.
The officer began to experience nausea, vomiting, an intense headache, and blurred vision. He has received initial medical treatment, but will require follow up treatment with a specialist due to the seriousness of the sustained injury and symptoms.
UPDATE November 11 2020: An officer with the Los Angeles Police Department said he lost vision in his right eye, suffers migraines and has had trouble balancing for at least two months after having a laser aimed at his eye on July 16 2020.
Officer Kyle Rice was on a call in the Little Tokyo area of downtown Los Angeles when someone unrelated to the call aimed a laser from a fourth-floor balcony of an apartment building. He told NBC Los Angeles he felt his right eye was on fire.
A 45-year-old suspect was arrested and later released from jail. As of September 10 2020, no charges were filed as the L.A. District Attorney's office said it did not have evidence in the case.
Due to his symptoms, Rice cannot drive. He is seeing eye specialists and neurologists, and does not yet know if the injury is permanent.
On September 4 2020 the LAPD police chief sent a memo to officers telling them to "adjust their vision away from the laser", and that laser eye protection would be provided. The memo noted "The use of a laser itself shall not presumptively constitute a threat that justifies an officer's use of deadly force" (emphasis in the original). The memo added that "If confronted with a laser, personnel shall utilize concepts found in Use of Force, Tactics Directive 16, Tactical De-escalation Techniques."
From NBC Los Angeles
The man lased a California Highway Patrol car, lighting up the interior and temporarily blinding both officers in the car. One was able to provide a description of the laser-targeting vehicle to a CHP unit further ahead. The car was stopped and the driver was questioned. CHP said "He was in fact the person responsible for the laser strike and [was placed] under arrest. A search of the vehicle located a high-power green laser pen which had been used.
From KPIX CBS
It was sold to a classmate of Breen who brought it to St Kevin's College on May 25 2012. Another classmate accidentally aimed the laser's green beam at Breen while a teacher was out of the classroom. Breen immediately felt a "burning sensation." At hospital he was told his retina was burned. Breen has a permanent spot in the center of his right eye, removing about 10 percent of his vision and requiring him to wear glasses.
Breen sued the school, St Kevin's and the laser pen distributor, Syncron.
Justice Michael Hanna found that the school had no responsibility. He said the teacher was entitled to be out of the classroom on necessary business, and if the school was aware of the laser it would have taken action.
Breen's suit said the laser pen was more powerful than allowed by EU directives and thus was dangerous. The judge agreed, noting it should not have been offered for sale, and that Syncron was entirely responsible for Breen's injury. Syncron did not appear in court and did not defend itself.
It is not known if Breen will be able to collect the judgement from Syncron as they are no longer trading.
From Herald.ie and the Irish Times (March 4 2020 article about the lawsuit, March 5 2020 article about the judge's decision and award)
Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com: This is the first case we are aware of where a civil suit has been brought against a laser pointer distributor or manufacturer for an eye injury. There have been cases where government agencies have taken administrative or criminal action against illegal imports.
Ben Leech told the Regina Leader Post that the light "was super bright, but it only was pointing at my face for around a second, so it didn’t do too much damage or anything. It was just kind of a shock to see it." The exposure left white spot afterimages for a few seconds. There was no permanent damage.
Four frames in quick succession from a dashcam video showing the laser beam on the pavement, hood, windshield, and in the air. The video is at YouTube.
Leech could not identify the car so he did not report it to the Regina Police Service. An RPS spokesperson said they were not previously aware of automobile drivers being targeted by lasers, although it has happened to aircraft in the area.
From the Regina Leader Post, February 15 2020
Protests against increased Chinese control of Hong Kong began in March and April 2019. On June 21, lasers were aimed at police officers' eyes.
The use of lasers increased dramatically after the August 6 2019, arrest of 20-year-old Hong Kong Baptist University student union president Keith Fong for having 10 laser pointers. (According to the South China Morning Post, laser pointers are readily available for less than HK $100 [USD $13].) Fong claimed he purchased them for stargazing. Persons around him chanted "release him" but police arrested him for "possession of offensive weapons.”
Police said that laser pointers are not prohibited in Hong Kong, but if they are used in an attack or are intended for use in an attack, then they are considered offensive weapons. During an August 7 2019 press conference, Li Kwai-wah, Superintendent of the Organized Crime and Triad Bureau said “…many of our colleagues have been injured by these items. And sensors in some of our video cameras were damaged. So we strongly believe that these items, which are capable of hurting people and destroying things, are indeed ‘offensive weapons.’” Police then demonstrated how the blue beam from a pointer taken from Fong could cause black ink on a newspaper to begin smoking at a range of about 20 inches.
Fong’s arrest set off demonstrations and a rally to demand his release. Critics of the police arrest said Fong’s laser pointers were legal unless they were actually being used to attack. The protests were marked by widespread use of laser pointers. At one point, a protester held up a newspaper and dozens of lasers were shined on it, without affecting the paper. (This was to show how laser beams as used in demonstrations — at distances much longer than 20 inches and handheld onto uncooperative targets — would not have the same effect as holding a beam steady on an unmoving target at close range.)
Studio Incendo via Wikipedia, cc-by-2.0
Protesters also aimed their laser pointers at the dome of the Hong Kong Space Museum, creating a "laser show" that may have been a takeoff on the nightly "Symphony of Lights" show around Hong Kong's harbor.
Protesters at the Hong Kong Science Museum. Studio Incendo via Wikipedia, cc-by-2.0
Hong Kong Symphony of Lights laser show, presented nightly at 8 pm by the Hong Kong Tourism Board.
According to Wikipedia, during the laser pointer protest "some chanted slogans like 'laser pointer revolution' and joked 'Is the building on fire yet?' They hoped to show support to Fong and voice condemnation of his arrest by police, and to show that laser pointers are neither offensive weapons nor effective enough to cause a fire." A writer tweeted that the mood was festive: "This is the joyous, comedic side of [the protests] I’ve been missing amid the miasma of tear gas. Tonight was something we all needed: no tears, no blood, just laughter, song, and dance.”
Fong was released on August 8 2019, after being detained for two days.
Use of laser pointers continued in subsequent protests. For example, on August 10 a female flight attendant, Kwok Lai-fan, 28, was arrested for assaulting a police officer using a laser pointer.
On August 13, during demonstrations that closed Hong Kong airport, a person was beaten by protesters. According to Global Times, "the rioters began assaulting him by cuffing his hands behind his back, splashing water on his head and pointing laser beams into his face. He was denied medical help for hours until being rescued at around 10:40pm by Hong Kong police."
On August 14, lasers were aimed at a police station in the Sham Shui Po area of Kowloon. Police responded by firing tear gas to disperse the group.
On November 7, a 16-year-old boy was the first person convicted of possessing a laser pointer at the protests. During the trial, an expert testified that a laser pointer could injure eyes depending on the distance to the victim and the length of time the laser was in the victim's eyes. The judge said the boy's use of the pointer "was meant to harm the eyes of police officers, causing them discomfort." He ruled the pointer was not inherently an offensive weapon, but could become one depending on the circumstances and intent. On or around November 26, the unnamed teen was sentenced to attend a rehabilitation center where he will serve a short custodial sentence and receive work training and counseling.
For more photos and information, see the page "Laser use during protests"
From Vice News (Aug. 8 2019 story about "All-Night Laser Party"), South China Morning Post (Aug. 7 story, "Hongkongers rally to demand release of student arrested over possession of laser pens"; Aug. 8 story, "Laser pointer as 'weapon', explained"; Aug. 12 story, Flight attendant, audio technician and security guard among those arrested during another weekend of Hong Kong protests; Nov. 7 story "Boy, 16, is first to be convicted of possessing laser pointer at Hong Kong protests"), CBC News (Aug. 11 story, "Hong Kong protesters use laser pointers to deter police, scramble facial recognition"), Infosurhoy (Aug. 13 story, "Hong Kong protesters gather for 'laser show' rally"), Washington Post (Aug. 14 story, "After airport mayhem, Hong Kong protesters face tipping point in battle for hearts and minds"), Global Times (Aug. 14 story, "Netizens furious over rioters' assault of mainland passenger at HK airport"), Wikipedia article on "2019 Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protests" accessed August 14 2019, Hong Kong Free Press (Nov. 26 story, "Hong Kong court sends 16-year-old to rehab for carrying laser pointer, hiking pole and modified umbrella at demo")
On May 20 2020, the 16-year-old boy mentioned above (Nov. 7 2019) lost his appeal. The judge concluded the lower court was correct to characterize his carrying a laser pointer as an "offensive weapon" under Hong Kong law.
On July 23 2020, a man was sentenced to 100 hours of community service for aiming laser beams at a police station near his house. The beams were not related to the protests; we are reporting it here since he was originally charged with violating a Hong Kong law stating that lasers are offensive weapons.
On July 24 2020, a man was acquitted of a charge of possessing offensive weapons including a baton and a laser pointer.
There is no apparent reason for the attacks. Laser pointers were used "on many occasions". Security guards were on call in France, but were unable to stop the attacks.
Drivers refused to go to St-Louis because of the attacks. The shutdown came on May 2 2019 after a female tram driver was illuminated with a laser pointer, and went for medical treatment.
From The Local and (in German) Basler Zeitung
An assistant chief of police, Francisco Garcia, said other officers from other agencies had also had lasers aimed at them in the past 30-45 days. He said it never happened before with direct hits in the eyes that caused damage.
Garcia said "This is just one of the many tactics the cartel and the criminal organizations will use to distract officers and get us away from a certain area to start illegally crossing contraband, drugs, people, everything, they cross."
He also noted concerns over whether the laser was stand-alone such as a pointer, or whether it is mounted on a weapon.
From ValleyCentral.com and KRGV.com
They felt "immediate discomfort and a burning sensation in their eyes" according to the police report. One of the officers had pain and headaches for the next two days, and was seen by an optometrist. There was no permanent injury to either officer.
Gamble-Mackesy was sentenced in Hamilton District Court on January 30 2019 to four years, three months in jail, and was also ordered not to drive for two years. Charges against him included injuring with intent to injure, threatening to kill, obstructing the course of justice, dangerous driving, driving while disqualified, failing to stop for police, and two charges of committing an act of criminal nuisance. It was not clear how much of his jail term, and how many of the charges, directly related to his laser attack on the police officers, and how many related to additional criminal actions he had taken such as strangling his domestic partner on May 26 2018, and attacking her again on June 8.
UPDATED January 20 2020: The judge's sentencing instructions listed the number of months of imprisonment for various charges:
1) Attempting to pervert the course of justice, 51 months (4 years, 3 months)
2) Disqualified driving, nine months
3) Dangerous driving, two months
4) Failing to stop, six months
5) Injuring with intent to injure, nine months
6) Criminal nuisance (shining a laser at police officers), nine months
7) Threatening to kill, nine months
8) Willfully attempting to pervert the course of justice (separate from #1), nine months.
The prison terms were to be served concurrently, not consecutively, for a total of 51 months of imprisonment.
The above helps show how the judge weighed the relative seriousness of the laser charge, compared with the other charges.
Thank you to Yung Chun-fai for providing the text of the sentencing report.
Police say the 38-year-old man aimed a laser pointer at the driver when he pulled alongside the bus that parked at a stop in Meguro Ward during July 2018. He was arrested for suspicion of assaulting the driver and obstructing public services.
The bus driver was unharmed but he felt that something was wrong with his eyes. He continued driving to the next stop before another driver took over.
The man left the scene at the time. But police identified him with security camera footage after receiving a report.
The man reportedly admitted to the charges.
Many similar incidents have been reported across Japan in recent years.
From NHK World-Japan
In the October 25 2018 tweet, the company also said that "…our drivers have been advised if it happens again not to operate via Drongan."
Due to the lack of a possessive apostrophe, it was unclear whether one driver had been attacked, or if this occurred to multiple drivers.
A local paper contacted the company for more information, but they "declined to comment further." It is not known if the laser caused any eye effects or injuries.
From the Cumnock Chronicle
The injury occurred at approximately 5 pm local time on October 1 2018.
Ophthalmologists examined the guard's eye and diagnosed a laser-induced retinal injury.
According to the Ukrainian State Border Service, this was the seventh case of Russian-led forces using blinding lasers against Ukrainian troops since 2014. At least five of these injuries were not permanent: "all of the  affected troops have had their eyesight almost fully restored."
From the Kyiv Post, October 2 2018. An earlier Kyiv Post story March 29 2018 has a few additional details about earlier attacks. LaserPointerSafety.com also reprinted a May 28 2018 Kyiv Post story on the topic.
It notes that an 8-year-old boy playing with a laser pointer suffered irreversible retinal damage to his left eye.
The story says "such cases are not rare" at the Shanghai Xinshijie Eye Hospital.
It also says that a "study conducted by the national quality authority found 29.8 percent of children have had access to laser products, laser pointers being the most common." It is not known what other, non-pointer, laser products were included in the study.
According to the story, the "government has issued a warning to alert parents not to buy laser pointers as toys for their children, but they are still widely available in local stationery stores. Most laser pointers don’t come with safety alerts to warn of the dangers present." The story did not say whether this was a national, provincial or local government warning.
From Shine News (Shanghai Daily)
Vanderpool told his story in June 2018, to try to warn others to be careful about laser pointers. He said “We watched Star Wars and they had laser guns so we really didn’t know how dangerous it was.”
While he still has unspecified damage, treatment helped to repair much of the damage.
According to a news story, “the Indiana Academy of Ophthalmology and the Indiana State Medical Association are working on a resolution to deal with the laser pointer issue. They hope to release their findings by the end of September .”
From RTV6 The Indy Channel
Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com: Star Wars depicts lasers as weapons — not as toys. People die or are severely injured by the laser blasters and laser-like lightsabers. It is not clear how someone who watches Star Wars would not understand that lasers are dangerous — at least, as used in Star Wars.
The most serious injury that the boy caused was a large hole in his macula, shown with the yellow arrows.
Two other areas of injury were not immediately visible in a funduscopic exam of the retina (photo A, using ordinary white light) but were clearly visible using fundus autofluorescence imaging (blue arrows in photo B, using a narrow wavelength of light). The round area to the left in both photos is the optic disc, a natural feature where the optic nerve begins — it is not laser damage.
The macula is where central vision occurs. The fact that the injury occurred in the macula indicates that the boy looked directly into the laser light with his left eye. Damage to the macula is serious as this area provides high resolution, color vision in the center of the visual field.
The injury reduced the boy’s vision to 20/100 in the injured left eye; his right eye remained at 20/20. The boy’s ophthalmologists felt the hole was too large and too much time had passed since the injury for surgery. (The doctors suspected that the boy had injured his eye at least a year earlier.) Because surgery might make things worse, causing a cataract without improving the macula, they “favored conservative management.”
There was no improvement in vision even 1 1/2 years after the injury was first presented to the ophthalmologists.
The power of the laser pointer, and other details of the incident, were not described in the one-paragraph report published June 21 2018. One of the authors told CNN the boy’s father “had bought the laser as a toy from a street merchant.”
From the New England Journal of Medicine (N Engl J Med 2018; 378:2420, DOI: 10.1056/NEJMicm1714488) Authors: Sofia Androudi, M.D., Ph.D., and Eleni Papageorgiou, M.D., Ph.D. Additional reporting by CNN. This story was picked up by many other news sites around the world.
The boy was playing with a classmate, trying to dodge the beam. At some point it hit the boy’s left eye. He felt a stinging sensation and became light sensitive.
During a routine eye exam two weeks later, a retinal burn was seen. The boy underwent photocoagulation treatment and will need regular follow-up exams to monitor the eye’s healing, but he did not suffer any vision loss, said Wu Pei-chang, director of the Department of Ophthalmology at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital in Kaohsiung (third-largest city in Taiwan).
From the Taipei Times
In the first case, the macular area of a boy’s eyes were damaged so that he could not see an object at 10 cm. The damage was confirmed by retinal examination.
In the second case, a 15-year-old high school student also has burns on his macular area, from when a classmate aimed a laser pen at him. He could only see objects within 50 cm, and there were scars consistent with those left by clinical lasers.
Both cases were reported by Xie Airui, an eye specialist at the Ineye Hospital of Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Both cases occurred between September 2017 and May 2018.
According to a May 31 2018 news story, laser pens have become popular with some schoolchildren in Chengdu. Many stationery shops sell them for prices between USD $0.80 and $31.00. in 2014 the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine warned consumers about laser pointer hazards. “But no market supervisors have taken up the matter in a serious way, according to Xu Bin, a lawyer in Chengdu.”
From China Daily via Ecns.cn
At least six Ukrainian servicemen deployed to the Donbas war zone have suffered serious eye damage from unidentified optical radiation devices used by Kremlin-backed militants on several occasions since 2016.
The military believes that the soldiers were likely targeted with blinding laser devices, which Russia brought to Donbas in order to test this new advanced technology in battlefield conditions. If independently confirmed, the usage of such weapons can be qualified as a war crime, according to international law.
Since the war’s outbreak in 2014, there have been at least three such incidents recorded by the State Border Service and the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense.
On July 18, 2016, three Ukrainian border guards deployed to a forward checkpoint between the city of Maryinka just west of Russian-occupied Donetsk suffered severe eye injuries as they surveyed enemy territory in front of them through binoculars and monoculars.
Click to read more...
After the “read more” link are more stories, plus speculation that the cause might be ultraviolet light, or chemical irritation from fog or smoke.
NYE laser show leaves 200 students in Andhra with eye irritation
The children's eyes began watering and had turned red when they got up the next morning.
Around 40 students of a private school in Andhra Pradesh's Parvathipuram village in Vizianagaram district had to be given medical treatment, after their eyes began to swell on Monday morning [January 1 2018].
The 40 students, along with 200 others, began complaining of irritation and pain in their eyes, after they were reportedly exposed to lights and lasers during a show, as part of the school's New Year's Eve celebrations.
The children's eyes began watering, and had turned red when they got up the next morning.
As the children began complaining, worried parents staged a protest and demanded answers from the school.
Following this, doctors rushed to the school and administered first-aid, before assuring those who had gathered, that the kids would not lose eyesight.
“We prescribed eye drops and ointment for the affected children,” a doctor told the Times of India.
Meanwhile, Vizianagaram district Collector Vivek Yadav was informed of the incident, and directed the Revenue Divisional Officer (RDO) of Parvathipuram, P Sudarsan Dora, to visit the school along with Mandal Educational Officer P Krishna Murthy.
Circle Inspector G Rambabu also visited the school along with the officials, and spoke to the children, to collect more details regarding the case. Further details are awaited.
Click the “read more” link to see additional updated stories, plus speculation on the possible cause. Click to read more...
According to a news story, “the boy sustained damage to his eyes and required hospital treatment.” A police spokesperson called the injuries “serious.”
Police were asking for help in finding the perpetrators of the December 4 2017 incident
From Luton Today
None of the seven crew members were reported to be injured or affected by the light.
According to a news story, “Last year the Port of Cromarty Firth also complained to police after laser pens were shone into the waters of the firth. One worker had to receive medical treatment when a pen was shone directly into his eyes.”
From the North Star News
The incident happened on November 26 2017. A College Place resident later confessed to using the laser pointer. The 43-year-old woman said she “inadvertently” aimed the laser at the officer. Police said the laser was “Class III.”
The unnamed woman may be charged with unlawful discharge of a laser at a law enforcement officer in the performance of their duty, a Class C felony which has a punishment of up to five years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
The laser pointer
Close-up of the laser pointer label
Note from LaserPointerSafety.com: Visible light travels through the clear cornea — it is not absorbed by corneal tissue. It is essentially impossible for a handheld laser’s visible light to be able to cause corneal damage to a moving target many yards away. While certain green lasers can also emit infrared light, it is extremely unlikely that the IR was strong enough to cause damage under the specified conditions. When corneal damage is seen after an unwanted laser pointer exposure, this is due to the person rubbing their eyes too vigorously. More information on evaluating laser injuries is here.
Motorists impeded by green laser light, Mount Pleasant
Three motorists, including one police officer, were travelling on Mackay Bucasia Road (Mount Pleasant area) when their eye-sight has been impeded by the deliberate shining of a green laser light from a near-by residence situated on the eastern side of the roadway.
The incident involving the police officer occurred at approximately 9:26pm on November 11 as the officer was travelling in a marked police car, travelling in-bound towards Mackay. The officer’s eye-sight was impeded twice by the shining of the green laser light. Police had received two reports of a similar nature from other motorists in the same time frame.
Despite patrols conducted on foot and by vehicle the address where the green laser light was activated from was not identified at the time. Police are conducting further investigations. Any one who may have information linked to these incidents is encouraged to contact the Mackay police station on 0749 683 444 or you can call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 any time of the day and provide information anonymously. The police reference number is QP1701988362.
Actions such as these have the ability to temporarily effect the eye-sight of the driver of a vehicle – which can potentially create life endangering circumstances.
An optometrist who examined the boy said “It was clear after taking a close look at Carlo’s eyes that he had suffered some sort of damage. I could see there were slight burns to the surface of the eye [cornea] and the retina, the light sensitive tissue at the back of the eye, had been damaged.”
According to the optometrist, the boy is likely to need glasses when he is older due to the “irreversible” damage.
Carlo’s mother said “I had no idea laser pens could do so much damage to the eyes. If we had known, we’d never have let him buy one. The damage was slight when it was detected so Carlo hadn’t complained of any issues, but thank goodness it got picked up when it did.”
From the Leicester Mercury and the Express
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 undated attack was discussed in an October 9 2017 press release from Dr. Valev’s institution, the University of Bath. The goal of the press release was to warn the public about laser pointers which may seem safe but are too powerful and/or emit infrared light in addition to visible light.
Dr. Valev and colleagues tested laser pointers at the university, and found the potentially unsafe conditions.
As part of the press release, Dr. Valev related a laser pointer attack that occurred in his home. He said his daughter was asleep at the time so no light entered her closed eyes. Dr. Valev said “… I got only momentarily dazed, but suddenly everything became red. I was thinking that perhaps I was experiencing a medical condition, but my wife saw someone shining a pointer at me from outside our home.”
Click the “read more” link to read the entire press release. Click to read more...
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
Tests at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Ophthalmology clinic one week after exposure showed no lesion visible to the eye (slit lamp exam) or with fundus photographs. However, Amsler grid tests indicated a central field visual defect in the left eye. Using more sensitive optical coherence tomography (OCT), a 56-micron disruption area was seen:
Intravenous fluorescein angiography displayed a barely detectable foveal window defect:
The diagnosis was that the blind spot was likely to remain, unchanged, and that treatment would not be necessary or effective,
Check-ups after two months and six months showed no change. However, after two years the teen no longer complained about a blind spot, and Amsler grid results were normal — despite OCT still showing the disruption area.
In an article describing the case, the authors concluded: “Our case represents a somewhat unique instance, where a moderate-powered [Class] 3B green laser produced visually significant retinal injury without correlating fundus findings on physical examination. The injury was only detectable by OCT and questionably fluorescein angiography…. Our case demonstrates the unpredictability of retinal findings in laser exposure in this power range, and the importance of OCT when evaluating patients who present with symptoms following dangerous laser exposures… If powerful lasers continue to be marketed as benign lights and their access to adolescent hands remains just a few keystrokes away, more ocular injury of this nature can be expected.”
From Military Medicine, Volume 180, Issue 3, 1 March 2015, Pages e378–e380, https://doi.org/10.7205/MILMED-D-14-00420
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.”
Click to read more...
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.
Click to read more...
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.
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
He was examined two days later at the Wills Eye Institute in Philadelphia. While slit-scan examination of the left eye showed no abnormalities, on an Amsler grid exam the patient drew a 2 mm circular spot. A fundus photograph showed a circular lesion in the fovea (magnified on the right):
Two weeks later the patient said there was some improvement in his vision. Fundus photography showed the lesion was smaller and less prominent; this was corroborated by optical coherence tomography (OCT).
The patient’s vision was expected to continue to improve over time.
From “Wills Eye Resident Case Series”, Jared D. Peterson, M.D. in the Review of Ophthalmology, November 7 2011. Introduction to case here; details of diagnosis, and discussion of eye injuries and treatment here.
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
“In previously reported cases of retinal injury from red (He–Ne; 632 nm) laser pointers, the maximum output was 5 mW or lower (Class 3a), and gazing time was 10 s or longer. Higher-energy, green (532 nm) laser pointers are increasingly displacing red lasers and, here also, injuries have been reported. We report a case of retinal light damage caused, after a moment's gaze, by a high-output (Class 3b) green laser pointer unavailable to the general public in Japan that was brought from overseas.”
From “A case of retinal light damage by green laser pointer (Class 3b)”, Ueda, T., Kurihara, I. & Koide, R. Japanese Journal of Ophthalmology, July 2011, Vol. 55, Issue 4, pp 428-430, (2011) 55: 428. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10384-011-0031-5 First online July 1 2011.
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, March 12 2011.
Police are looking for the perpetrator.
From the Sunday Telegraph
At the age of 11, he had normal 20/20 (1.0) vision in the left eye, but 20/100 vision (0.20) in the right. Examination of the right eye showed a yellow lesion or fibrous tissue surrounded by a subretinal hemorrhage in the right macula. At age 13, examination showed the lesion was leaking on fluorescein angiography. At age 14, there was no change.
The doctors elected not to perform any treatment due to the patient’s age and mental condition.
From “Choroidal Neovascularization in a Child Following Laser Pointer-Induced Macular Injury”, Fujinami, K., Yokoi, T., Hiraoka, M. et al. Japanese Journal of Ophthalmology November 2010, Vol. 54, Issue 6, pp 631-633 (2010) 54: 631. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10384-010-0876-z First online January 21 2011.
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...
In another case from 1999, a high school senior in Gloucester County received a six-month prison sentence for shining a six-dollar laser pointer in the eye of a sheriff’s deputy.
The teenager appealed, arguing nothing touched the deputy because lasers have no mass. The Court of Appeals also upheld that conviction, ruling that a battery occurred because shining a light beam at someone can be considered 'unlawful touching."
One judge warned the battery-by-light-beams theory went too far.
“Will the next prosecution for battery be based upon failure to dim high beams in traffic, flash photography too close to the subject, high intensity flashlight beams or sonic waves from a teenager’s car stereo?” the dissenting judge wrote.
The General Assembly later passed a law specifying that pointing lasers at cops is a misdemeanor.
The case was cited as the Commonwealth's legislature debated a bill to "defelonize" non-injurious assaults on law enforcement officers. As of 2020, the law has a mandatory minimum jail term of six months. An example of an egregious case included a woman who hit an officer with a piece of onion ring. A Commonwealth Attorney said she often sees behaviors such as pushing, spitting or elbowing during a situation — not premeditated attacks on unsuspecting officers.
From the Virginia Mercury. LaserPointerSafety.com was unable to find any additional links or references to the 1999 case.
During the Iran/Iraq War [Sept. 1980-August 1988], Iranian soldiers suffered over 4000 documented eye casualties from Iraqi laser systems, enough to indicate Iraq's employment of some laser systems specifically for their casualty- producing effect. The Iranian casualties showed effects caused by different types of lasers, which was indicative of the mix of western and Communist-block systems in the Iraqi inventory.
The injuries, described as retinal burns and hemorrhages, reportedly were caused by a laser device associated with Iraqi tanks. The reported injuries could have been inflicted by a visible or near-infrared laser, most likely a tank-mounted ruby or neodymium/glass laser rangefinder.
Laser eye injuries probably occurred as a result of the use of tank-mounted laser rangefinders or other laser systems. These systems possibly were used in an offensive, antipersonnel mode, with the explicit purpose of blinding troops. Hand-held laser rangefinders and designators associated with armor or artillery could be used in an attempt to dazzle, disorient, or blind personnel in low-flying aircraft (fixed and rotor wing).
Lasers also have been purchased by Iraq presumably for military application. It was reported that Iraq fielded these lasers as antisensor or antipersonnel weapons; however, no confirmation exists to support this report.
The article is from the Federation of American Scientists which is based on information in a U.S. AFMIC ”Special Weekly Wire” dated the 32nd week of 1990 (August 5-11). The AFMIC report does not state the figure of “over 4000” casualties. This figure comes from a GulfLink document produced by the CIA in June 1997, according to John Pike of GlobalSecurity.org.
In correspondence with LaserPointerSafety.com dated May 16 2018, Pike wrote “the document is authentic, though as with many of the GulfLink documents, the provenance is a bit difficult to establish.” The GulfLink “collection of declassified military and intelligence documents concerning Gulf War Illnesses, is a unique treasure-trove of both recent US intelligence products, as well as insights into Iraq's special weapons programs” according to GlobalSecurity.org.
The AFMIC report is also echoed in a December 2000 article from Armada International that contains additional interesting information on “eye-safe” lasers used for rangefinding.