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Canada: Looking at "all possible options" to fight laser incidents; perhaps a ban and mandatory labels
The statement came after six laser incidents over two days earlier in the month, at Montreal’s Trudeau Airport. Garneau said these made him “very, very mad.”
A Transport official said the options include a ban on importation of powerful lasers, mandatory warning labels, and stronger penalties for those who are caught.
Garneau noted that it is hard to catch a laser perpetrator, making prosecutions “few and far between”. He believes that some people are not aware of the bright-light danger of laser light, but that others “know darn well what they’re doing” and are trying to “provoke something.”
Transport Canada currently has a program called “Not-a-Bright-Idea,” trying to educate the general public about the risks and legal consequences of aiming lasers at aircraft. Since implementing the program in May 2016, laser incident numbers have dropped. There were 590 reported incidents in 2015, 527 in 2016, and 379 in 2017.
Garneau said that despite the 28 percent drop, Transport Canada must do more, and that is why they are exploring other options.
From 660 News and AVweb
Note: In response to a LaserPointerSafety.com request, an email address for interested persons was provided: “Transport Canada is exploring options to reduce laser strikes. Canadians and industry members can provide information to the Civil Aviation Communications Centre by emailing: email@example.com”
In a January 22 2018 Hackaday post, Tom Nardi purchased a “Home Accents Holiday Multi-Color Light Projector” from a hardware chain on clearance, marked down from $56 to just $14.
He removed the cover with four screws and found the parts inside used connectors instead of solder: “It’s like they wanted us to strip it for parts.”
The lasers were defocused inside. “…[A]t 3 meters the spots looked as large as dinner plates…. Once focused, it becomes pretty clear that these lasers are quite a bit more powerful than the <5 mW listed on the product’s warning sticker.”
The green and blue laser diode modules inside the holiday projector
Nardi noted that the blue laser, when focused, was “easily able to burn pieces of paper and punch holes in black plastic.” He also estimated that the green laser was “at least twice as bright” as a laser pointer he owns that claims to be 50 mW: “…it certainly would not surprise me if they are both [green and blue] at least 100 mW.”
Nardi writes: “If your biggest take-away from this post is that the Home Depot is selling a 440 nm laser you can use to burn stuff, I certainly don’t blame you.”
From Hackaday. LaserPointerSafety.com has a page with more information, including measurements of the beam output of a Star Shower projector, here.
Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com: In fairness to Home Accents, the FDA-required warning sticker has to do with the laser power of the unopened unit in its factory configuration. Class 3R (IIIa) laser projectors like this are not allowed in the U.S. to be over 5 mW output power. It may be that after going through the holographic diffraction grating that creates the stars, that the Home Accents projector meets Food and Drug Administration requirements for user access to laser light.
UK: "Call for evidence" response summarizes many groups' views on laser eye, plane incidents; sets forth actions
The U.K. government published on January 8 2018 a 14-page report on laser pointer safety and potential regulation. The report includes two new actions the government will take to reduce the number and risk of unsafe laser pointers:
1) “strengthening safeguards to stop high-powered lasers entering the country”, and
2) “working with manufacturers and retailers to [voluntarily] improve labeling.
Separately, the U.K. government published the Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Bill on December 20 2017. This makes it illegal to point a laser at vehicles, with a prison term of up to five years and an unlimited fine.
“Laser pointers: call for evidence - government response”
From August 12 to October 6 2017, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy opened a “Call for Evidence” consultation. BEIS set forth 19 questions, asking the public to give their views on laser pointer hazards and what actions to take.
The January 8 2018 government response summarizes the 265 responses received.
The report is especially useful because it incorporates the views of many disparate groups: pilots (64% of respondents), “concerned members of the public” (14%), professional laser safety advisors (9%), users of laser pointers (6%), ophthalmologists (6%), and Trading Standards authorities (2%).
The report then distills these views, finding surprising commonality. It is a good overview for the non-expert on two topics:
1) Actual laser pointer hazards — separating fact from fear
2) Potential actions to reduce the number and severity of laser pointer injuries and incidents — including what actions may not work (e.g., licensing).
We have summarized the findings below (click the “read more” link). However, reading the complete document is well worth the time of anyone interested in this issue.
Click to read more...
The editorial notes that in the late 2000s, New Jersey beachfront cities had problems with widespread laser sales — followed by widespread misuse. Ocean City NJ banned laser sales and possession in the summer of 2010, as did another Jersey Shore city, North Wildwood, a few years later.
The paper wrote “Apparently, coverage of the incidents and bans was enough to spread the word that pointing lasers at aircraft is dangerous and illegal, as incidents in the area greatly diminished.”
The editorial then noted that despite this local decrease, there are “still about 7,000 reports of lasers aimed at aircraft each year [in the U.S.].”
The article concluded with the suggestion to “[r]equire a warning about the five years in prison and $250,000 fine on every laser for sale (on the packaging or on a handout to the buyer).”
From the Press of Atlantic City
Australia: Study shows inexpensive green laser pointers are mislabled and significantly over-powered
The researchers purchased eight laser pointers from sources including electronics stores and online stores. They bought four lasers with green beams and four with red beams. The cost of each laser was less than AUD $30 (USD $23).
All of the lasers were advertised to have a maximum output power of either less than 1 mW or less than 5 mW. The green laser pointers’ actual output power measured from 51 to 127 milliwatts. Dr. Fox said “At that upper level, the beam would cause catastrophic retinal damage.”
Apparently much of the green lasers’ power was in the infrared. These types of lasers work by generating non-visible infrared light which is then converted by a crystal into visible green light. A filter is normally used to block the infrared light, and only let the green light through. However, “[t]he research team found that imported laser pointers were poorly made, with manufacturers tempted to skip installing infrared-blocking filters to hold down costs.” The researchers did not measure how much of each lasers’ output was in the visible, and how much was in the infrared.
The 127 milliwatt green laser was labeled as a Class 2 device, with maximum output power of 1 mW. In a previous study from the U.S. NIST, the highest power output they measured was 66.5 mW from a green laser labeled as having a maximum output power of 5 mW.
Three of the four red laser pointers were found to be within the legal limit of 1 milliwatt. The fourth red pointer was about 8.5 milliwatts. The researchers felt that the red lasers’ spots were less focused than green lasers, meaning there was less risk of retinal damage. Also, red lasers use diodes. The maximum power output of these diodes is limited; excessive current will destroy the diode’s lasing capacity instead of providing a more powerful beam.
The researchers noted that “Our experiment raised two very pertinent concerns – first, why were class 3B lasers so easily purchased via the internet without licensing? This suggests that there are many loopholes in the importation of these products and more stringent processes need to be reinforced. Secondly, why did green lasers labeled as Class 2 reach up to a power output of 127mW, effectively attaining a class 3B classification? It is very likely that there is a significant infrared component. This drastic degree of non-compliance suggests that there needs to be more rigorous testing and quality control of these commercially available lasers – merely imposing a power limit of less than 1mW is insufficient.”
The researchers concluded by stating that “Authorities such as the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) and medical authorities such as the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO) ought to advocate more strongly for stringent testing, quality control and licensing of green DPSS lasers.”
From an RMIT press release, “Over-the-counter laser pointers a threat to eyesight” and an advance copy of a paper, “Green lasers are beyond power limits mandated by safety standards,” which will be published in the Proceedings of the 2016 IEEE Engineers in Medicine and Biology Conference, online at the IEEE Xplore website. Thanks to Dr. Kate Fox for the paper.
This is the first time that Wicked, or any consumer laser manufacturer, has used the proposed “Laser Safety Facts” labeling system which aims to give the general public detailed and easily accessible safety data. A key part of this proposal is that the information is not controlled by Wicked or any laser manufacturer; instead it comes from an independent source.
Click to read more...
7,378 lasers were seized, along with 8,780 parts from which lasers could be assembled. It was estimated that the company sold over 35,000 laser pointers from 2009-2011, generating income of over £1,000,000 (USD $1,600,000).
Techyun Hii, 33, pleaded guilty to four charges of laser pointer violations and a fifth charge of unsafe power chargers. He was sentenced to a 180 day jail term suspended for 18 months, and to 300 hours of community service. The lasers were later incinerated in a hospital’s furnace.
Lead author John O’Hagan detailed the HPA’s findings in a paper presented at the March 2013 International Laser Safety Conference in Orlando. The case had previously been reported by LaserPointerSafety.com.
Click to read more...
The findings were made public at a March 20 2013 meeting of the International Laser Safety Conference.
Researcher Joshua Hadler designed the measurement device to be accurate, inexpensive and easy-to-use. It would cost roughly $2000 in equipment costs to make a copy of the NIST device; plans are available from NIST for interested parties.
From a NIST press release, March 20 2013.
Click here for the full press release:Click to read more...
The author, Trevor Wheatley, is chair of the Standards Australia SF-019 Committee on laser safety. He studied 41 lasers purchased online in 2012 that were claimed by the sellers to be legal -- lower than the Australian import limit of 1 milliwatt. Most cost less than AUS $20.
Wheatley found that 95% of these pointers were illegal under Australian law, with outputs above 1 mW. Of the 41, 78% were between 5 mW and 100 mW. (5 mW is generally taken to be the highest safe power for a general purpose laser pointer.)
Based on Wheatley's research, "...there would appear to be a greater than 50% chance that someone attempting to buy a 'safe' laser pointer would inadvertently get a hazardous laser." Further, 100% of the tested laser pointers below $20 "would represent prohibited weapons in most Australian states."
From other statistics, the paper states that "availability has not been significantly impacted." In 2007/2008 there were 648 incidents involving lasers pointed at aircraft. In 2010/2011, well after the import and possession restrictions, the number of incidents had increased to 828.
Click to read more...
“CDRH recommends (but does not require) labeling on your product that cautions the purchaser with following or similar language: “CAUTION - LASER LIGHT IS BRIGHT AND BLINDING - DO NOT SHINE AT AIRCRAFT OR VEHICLES AT ANY DISTANCE”.
While FDA can require the familiar labels warning against laser eye and skin hazards, FDA does not have statutory authority to require labels for non-health hazards such as laser distraction or temporary flash blinding. Thus, the agency is only able to recommend -- but not require -- the new aircraft/vehicle caution label.
News of the action came in a December 7 2012 FDA email sent to parties including LaserPointerSafety.com. According to CDRH’s Daniel Hewett, the action applies to all “SLA products.” FDA/CDRH considers that laser pointers and handheld lasers are a subset of such Surveying, Leveling and Alignment laser products. SLA lasers are one of the three laser product uses which FDA can regulate under 21 CFR 1040.10 and 1040.11; the other two are medical and demonstration (education/light show) laser product uses.
From a Dec. 7 2012 FDA email. Thanks to Daniel Hewett for bringing this to our attention.
From the Associated Press via the Wall Street Journal. To read the text of Schumer’s letter to the FDA, and his press release, click the Read More link below.
Click to read more...
The Swiss government banned the sale of “powerful laser pointers” in May 2011. According to World Radio Switzerland, the country is considering a ban on owning such pointers.
From World Radio Switzerland
FDA is especially concerned about laser pointers above 5 mW, and about aircraft incidents. “In 2008, pilots reported a total of 950 cases of laser light striking an aircraft or illuminating a cockpit....The distraction from flash blindness could cause a serious accident.”
Click to read more...
According to Transport Canada, there have already been 56 occurrences this year  compared with 21 in 2007. The department has recorded a total of 83 since 2005.
"The increase in the number of laser events that are occurring in Canada and around the world are alarming to us," said Capt. Barry Wiszniowski of the Air Canada Pilots Association. "The laser events that are occurring are probably one of the greatest safety concerns that we have right now as a profession."
Wiszniowski said the industry is calling on laser manufacturers to develop labeling that will contain warnings similar to those on tobacco products.
He is also encouraging the courts to issue stiffer penalties to offenders.
Many more details at Metronews