A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use

UK: eBay, Amazon remove high-powered pointers

The internet trading companies eBay and Amazon [in the UK] are removing high-powered green laser pens [pointers] from sale on their sites.

The move follows a BBC investigation which found some of these potentially dangerous products were being sold irresponsibly by individual traders.
Many listings describe the pens as toys or, in one case, "wicked gadgets".

But RAF and police helicopters have been among dozens of aircraft targeted by these devices, which can send a beam several miles, dazzling pilots.

EBay told the Donal MacIntyre programme on BBC Radio 5 live it had become "increasingly concerned" by reports of these lasers being used for "wholly inappropriate purposes".

Amazon.co.uk said it would "remove the listings for these products as quickly as possible".

Low-powered laser pens under one milliwatt (mW) - often used for presentations - are considered safe enough to be on general sale.

But stronger lasers are causing concern - particularly those over 5 mW - including some used by astronomers or scientists which can be as powerful as 240 mW.

At close range they can cause permanent blindness and skin burns, while at longer range they can still cause temporary sightlessness.


The Health Protection Agency says laser pens over 1mW should not be sold to the general public. Traders must issue warnings and many legitimate retailers carry out checks to ensure purchasers understand the risks.

But the Donal MacIntyre programme found lasers of 240mW available on eBay for as little as £20, with no warnings.

One Amazon review said "It burns holes in plastic and is so bright. A bit like something from Star Wars."

An advert on eBay described a "Powerful Green Laser Pointer Pen: suitable for star gazing, lab experiments, projection on low clouds, even fun and games at night clubs and discos."

The programme contacted one internet seller on Amazon, asking for a laser to "just shine about". He recommended buying one of 100 to 125 mW. Another eBay trader said he had sold "loads and loads", and there was no problem using them to shine into the sky.


Retailers can be prosecuted by Trading Standards under the General Product Safety Regulations which stipulates that only safe products should be on general sale.

Inappropriate use of lights can also lead to prosecution under the Air Navigation Order, enforced by the Civil Aviation Authority.

The BBC contacted Amazon and eBay to ask about about the inappropriate sale of laser pens on their websites.

eBay said "We have become increasingly concerned by reports of high powered laser pointers being used for wholly inappropriate purposes, and so we have decided to introduce a ban on all high powered pointers."

Amazon said: "After learning that lasers exceeding the recommended standard were available on our site, we are working to remove the listings for these products as quickly as possible."

From BBC News