Playing with laser pointers seems like effortless fun, until you point it at your eyes and they burn your retina.
A teenager from Tasmania realized how big of a mistake this is too late, after learning the lesson the hard way – losing 75 percent of his vision. In fact, his case even prompted the Australian health officials to warn parents about the dangers of laser pointers and how they are not toys, according to ABC News.
Ben Armitage, the optometrist who consulted with the 14-year-old victim and his family, cited that upon checking the boy’s eyes the cells in his retinas were burned upon shining the laser pen in his eyes, even if it was just for a short period of time. It caused a permanent damage to the back of his eyes, where “your detailed central vision takes place and therefore it’s had somewhat of an exaggerated effect on how much sight he’s lost,” Armitage was quoted saying.
The harm done to the eyes was not even noticeable at first as it does not inflict pain on the patient, although it occurs right when the laser hit the eyes.
According to LaserPointerSafety.com, the laser light is more harmful that it looks because the light is packed into one narrow beam. Most of that concentrated light passes through the pupil, further made even more concentrated by the lens and focused on the retina. The light is so powerful as a 1 milliwatt laser gives off light brighter than the same area of the surface of the sun. Even a few seconds of exposure to this amount of light is enough to damage the retina.
Unfortunately, there are laser devices with up to 700 milliwatt power that can be bought online by basically anyone. They are often sold as laser pointers, similar to the ones harmlessly used in lectures, although when used carelessly can be transformed into an eye-damaging weapon. Some are even used in laser swords and toys that kids find fascinating to play with, unknowingly exposing them to the dangers of laser pointers.
Although the optometrist was positive the boy can have 25 percent of his vision back once the swelling in his eyes subsides, what started as a playful act with a laser pen turned into something that significantly affected his future.
Optometry Tasmania Chief Executive Geoff Squib discouraged parents from buying laser pointers for their children to avoid cases like that of the Tasmanian boy.