Monday, March 14, 2011

Laser Pointer Injuries On The Rise

I "blurrily" foresee a lot of products liability cases for people in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania injured by high-power laser pointers.

See, I accidentally hurt my eye this past Friday. I was opening a folder on my desktop when my wireless mouse suddenly stopped working. The batteries had died. I turned the mouse over and popped in a new battery. As soon as battery clicked in place the blue laser underneath that records the movements of the mouse beamed directly into my right eye. I quickly looked away. I didn’t think anything of it until about 10 minutes later when I realized that a very subtle blurry spot in my peripheral vision was not going away. A full weekend has gone by and I still have the same small blurry spot.

So I did some research and it turns out that lasers can, like we’ve always been told, hurt your eyes- I just didn't know how fast it could happen and how bad it could be. The incident of retinal injuries from lasers is on the rise in Pennsylvania and the US, especially in teenage demographics. According to a recent New York Times article, eye doctors around the world are warning that recent cases of teenagers who suffered eye damage while playing with high-powered green laser pointers are likely to be just the first of many. “The pointers, which have also been implicated in a ninefold increase over five years in reports of lasers’ being aimed at airplanes, are easier than ever to order online, doctors say — even though they are 10 to 20 times as powerful as the legal limit set by the Food and Drug Administration. Many laser pointers on the market right now emit beams many times the 5 Milliwatt limit set by the FDA. Just look at this link on advertising a number of 50 milliwatt and greater laser pointers. Those are laser pointers with power 10 times the FDA limit. Amazingly, you can buy laser pointers with strengths as high as 200 Milliwatts.

The Times article interviewed Dr. Kimia Ziahosseini of the St. Paul’s Eye Unit at Royal Liverpool University Hospital in England who says the dangers of lasers are so acute that even the F.D.A.’s five-milliwatt limit is too high. If that is too high, imagine what a 50 milliwatt laser and above can do.

In a consumer update in December, the F.D.A. said it was aware that illegal laser pointers were being sold and warned that “a higher-powered laser gives you less time to look away before injury can occur, and as power increases, eye damage may happen in a microsecond.”

Micro Fiber Products Online is based out of Laguna Niguel, CA and is a big producer of high-powered green laser pointers. And is serving as the middle-man distributor for many of these laser pointers. I think it is only a matter of time before these companies have products liability lawsuits filed against them for manufacturing and/or marketing laser pointers more powerful than the FDA limit. Even more dubious is the fact that these laser pointers are often sold to adolescents -with no age-verification constraints- the population most likely to use laser pointers improperly.

This Pennsylvania products liability law issue dovetails with my posts here, here and here about a recent PA Superior Court decision on products liability law. Share this post :
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