Originally created 12/20/97

FDA urges caution with laser pointers



WASHINGTON -- The Food and Drug Administration is warning parents that children may be risking their eyesight if they play with hand-held laser pointers that are popular with teachers and lecturers.

The light energy that laser pointers emit can be more damaging than staring directly into the sun, the FDA said Thursday.

"These laser pointers are not toys," said FDA Acting Commissioner Michael Friedman.

The FDA said the agency received two reports of eye injuries from a parent and an ophthalmologist.

Laser pointers are generally safe when used as intended to highlight areas on a chart or screen, the FDA said. But agency officials said they were concerned about children using the pointers as toys, after recent price reductions led to wider marketing.

Momentary exposure causes only temporary flash blindness, but even this could be dangerous if the person was driving at the time, the FDA warning said.