The internet is full of product liability warnings, but this one struck a particular chord with me.
An internationally-recognised ophthalmologist whom we instruct at Michelmores contacted us to help raise awareness of the damage that laser pointers can cause. With Christmas coming up and the latest toys being pressed upon us, it wasn't hard to envisage this sort of damage happening to my own children.
Laser pointers are two a penny. You can buy the fun laser keyrings (the ones that cats like to chase around a room) or spend in the region of £100 to buy a powerful blue laser. Laser 'toys' are readily available on Amazon, offering free shipping and sent from China, where safety legislation is different to that in the UK. Public Health England (PHE) recommends that so-called toy lasers should be British Standard Class 2 or less – however, many of the laser toys on websites such as Amazon are of uncertain safety classification. A group of ophthalmologists bought one of the lasers from Amazon and, on examination, noted that it would be classified as Class 4 in the UK – a laser that was being marketed as a toy.
These powerful lasers have the potential to cause blindness and severe retinal damage; the light energy from a laser is thought to be more dangerous thaN staring directly into the sun.
The Scientific Journal of The Royal College of Ophthalmologists reported five major cases where children have suffered serious maculopathy after looking at laser 'toys'. Maculopathy is where damage has been sustained by the macula, the part of the eye that provides us with central vision. The case studies all involve young children – for instance, a nine year old boy presenting on Boxing Day with painless but complete vision loss in his eye. The family admitted that he had been playing with a new laser toy on Christmas day. Another eleven year old boy suffered severe retinal damage after a friend aimed a laser toy into both of his eyes.
There are many other case studies and they do not make happy reading. I have a ten year old boy whom I could easily imagine having fun with one of these laser toys with his friends, all thoroughly naïve to any potential damage. I will certainly be having a chat with him before Christmas so he is aware of the dangers and, for my part, I will not be buying any laser toys.