Public advisory

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:
Advisory
Subcategory:
Miscellaneous
Source of recall:
Health Canada
Issue:
Product Safety
Audience:
General Public
Identification number:
RA-15008

Issue

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.

Approximate IEC / FDA Equivalent Laser Classes
Class
IEC FDA
1 I
1M
2 IIa, II
2M
3R IIIa
3B IIIb
4 IV

* Data taken from the FDA publication Illuminating the Hazards of Powerful Laser Products

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.

Footnotes

Footnote 1

Radiation that is accessible to the user and/or bystander within the exposure area of the laser

Return to footnote 1 referrer

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.

Return to footnote 2 referrer

 

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
    Health Canada
    123 Slater Street
    Ottawa, ON, Canada, K1A 0K9

Media enquiries

Health Canada
613-957-2983

Public enquiries

613-957-2991
1-866-225-0709

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.