The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a continual consumer warning regarding the safety of lasers. Internet sales of unregulated high powered lasers have been on the rise. Availability of these unregulated and in some cases illegal overpowered lasers have become more common on the internet for the past few years. These lasers pose serious safety concerns for eye health.
The intense light can cause damage to the eye with a relatively brief amount of direct exposure. To understand the risk, we need to know how lasers are rated.
Class 1 or 2 lasers have a limited power output and have a very low to zero chance of causing eye damage. Examples of this type of laser are DVD players or bar code scanners. Class 3 lasers are more powerful and include many types of commonly available laser pointers. Damage with this type of laser is possible so children should not be left unattended with this type of device.
In addition, no laser should be viewed through a microscope or telescope. Class 4 lasers are very dangerous and can cause eye damage with even a brief amount of direct exposure from long distances, even off of reflecting surfaces. It is this type of laser the FDA would like to eliminate from casual laser users. This class of laser is used in industry and research and should not be treated as toys. Professional users have specialized environments and protection when handling lasers of this type.