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Date: December 18, 1997
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FDA Issues Warning on Misuse of Laser Pointers

The Food and Drug Administration is warning parents and school officials about the possibility of eye damage to children from hand­held laser pointers.

These products are generally safe when used as intended by teachers and lecturers to highlight areas on a chart or screen. However, recent price reductions have led to wider marketing, and FDA is concerned about the promotion and use of these pro ducts as children's toys.

The light energy that laser pointers can aim into the eye can be more damaging than staring directly into the sun. Federal law requires a warning on the product label about this potential hazard to the eyes.

"These laser pointers are not toys. Parents should treat them with the appropriate care," said FDA Lead Deputy Commissioner Michael A. Friedman, M.D. "They are useful tools for adults that should be used by children only with adeq uate supervision."

FDA's warning is prompted by two anecdotal reports it has received of eye injury from laser pointers­­one from a parent, the other from an ophthalmologist.

Momentary exposure from a laser pointer, such as might occur from an inadvertent sweep of the light across a person's eyes, causes only temporary flash blindness. However, even this can be dangerous if the exposed person is engaged in a vision critical activity such as driving.

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