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Hand-held Lasers or Laser Pointers May Cause Permanent Vision Damage and Burns
- Starting date:
- June 25, 2012
- Posting date:
- June 25, 2012
- Type of communication:
- Source of recall:
- Health Canada
- Product Safety
- General Public
- Identification number:
- What you should do
- Report health or safety concerns
- Media enquiries
- Public enquiries
- What Health Canada is doing
Health Canada is advising Canadians about the potential dangers related to battery-operated hand-held lasers or laser pointers. Handheld lasers, which may resemble pens or flashlights, are most commonly used to point at objects in lectures or presentations, though they may also be advertised for other uses. In particular, lasers that emit Class 3B/IIIb or 4/IV accessible radiationFootnote 1 have the potential to cause serious harm due to the intensity of the radiation that they emit. They may also pose a fire hazard. Exposure to a direct or reflected beam – even for a fraction of a second – may cause permanent eye damage and burns. A controlled laser safety environment and professional laser safety training are necessary for the safe operation of Class 3B/IIIb and 4/IV lasers.
Health Canada reminds industry and Canadians that, under the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, it is prohibited to manufacture, import, advertise or sell any consumer product that poses an unreasonable hazardFootnote 2 as a result of its normal or foreseeable use. Furthermore, under the Radiation Emitting Devices Act, it is prohibited to sell, lease or import into Canada a laser that creates a risk to any person of genetic or personal injury, impairment of health or death from radiation by reason of the fact that it either does not perform according to the characteristics claimed for it, does not accomplish its claimed purpose, or emits radiation that is not necessary in order for it to accomplish its claimed purpose. Health Canada will take appropriate action when non-compliant lasers are found.
To help reduce these potential health risks, battery-operated hand-held lasers or laser pointers manufactured, advertised, sold, imported or leased should be limited to the classification of Class 3R/IIIa or less. Under the International Electrotechnical Commission Standard IEC 60825-1, laser products are categorized in the following order, from the lowest to highest potential risk: Class 1, 1M, 2, 2M, 3R, 3B and 4. Title 21 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, Part 1040.10 (21 CFR 1040.10), administered by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), categorizes lasers in the following order, from the lowest to highest potential risk: Class I, IIa, II, IIIa, IIIb, and IV.
Users should look for appropriate warning labels, safety features and instructions which explain how to properly handle the device. Users should also look for the classification of a laser on the label and in the instructions. If you are uncertain of a laser's classification, contact the manufacturer.
Manufacturers often classify laser products using an international standard, such as the IEC Standard 60825-1 or the U.S. requirements set out in 21 CFR 1040.10.
- Footnote 1
Radiation that is accessible to the user and/or bystander within the exposure area of the laser
- Footnote 2
The Canada Consumer Product Safety Act defines a "danger to human health or safety" as "any unreasonable hazard – existing or potential – that is posed by a consumer product during or as a result of its normal or foreseeable use and that may reasonably be expected to cause the death of an individual exposed to it or have an adverse effect on that individual's health – including injury – whether or not the death or adverse effect occurs immediately after the exposure to the hazard, and includes any exposure to a consumer product that may reasonably be expected to have a chronic adverse effect on human health.
What you should do
- Never point a laser beam at anyone, and never look directly into the beam yourself.
- If you are uncertain about the classification of a laser, contact the manufacturer or retailer.
- Carefully read and follow all manufacturers' instructions.
- Never leave a laser within reach of children.
Report health or safety concerns
How to report problems with consumer products:
- Internet: Report an Incident Involving a Consumer Product
- Phone: 1-866-662-0666 (calls will be routed to closest regional office)
Mail : Incident Report – Consumer Product Safety Directorate
123 Slater Street
Ottawa, ON, Canada, K1A 0K9
What Health Canada is doing
Health Canada conducts market surveys on lasers and will continue to work with industry and others to take appropriate action when non-compliant lasers are found.
For more information
Consumers, health professionals and suppliers of lasers wanting more information about this advisory from Health Canada can contact the Public Enquiries Line at 613-957-2991, or toll free at 1-866-225-0709.
Media enquiries related to this Advisory should be directed to Health Canada Media Relations at 613-957-2983.
For more information on handheld lasers and laser pointers, see:
- Transport Canada, "Use Laser Pointers Safely and Legally"
- Canada's Air Force, "The Effects of Laser Pointers on Night Aviation"
- Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, "Lasers" web section
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration's laser safety notification
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration Consumer Updates: Illuminating the Hazards of Powerful Laser Products
For more information on the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, see:
- Date modified: