Lasers can be fun, but they aren't toys

Lasers may make great lightsabers — for Luke Skywalker. And back on our world, they’ve made everything from wrinkle erasing and cancer surgery to vision correction and tattoo removal easier.

But there’s one application where they’re proving a serious hazard: toys. Green lasers endanger pilots and airline passengers. There were 3,592 incidents of green lasers disrupting flights in 2011. That’s up 17 percent from the year before.

And blue lasers, sold online for fun and games — are causing irreversible eye damage, according to a new study from Johns Hopkins and Saudi Arabia’s King Khaled Eye Specialist Hospital. Their light beam is concentrated enough to light a cigarette and ignite paper from several feet away! If the beam hits your eye, it can damage the retina and cornea, sometimes resulting in permanent vision loss.

If you think you have a legit reason to have a pointer or laser (you’re an astronomer pointing out distant stars in the night sky), be aware of these Food and Drug Administration guidelines.

Do not buy any laser for a toy. Ever.

Packaging on approved lasers must: state that they comply with Chapter 21 Code of Federal Regulations; show the manufacturer’s or distributor’s name and the date of manufacture; provide a warning to avoid exposing any part of your body or someone else’s to the laser beam.

The laser will be designated as Class I to Class IIIa. Classes IIIb and IV are high-powered and used only for applications that require medical or technical training.

So, as a consumer, remember to use your toy-buying power only for good.

Dr. Mehmet Oz is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Dr. Michael Roizen is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. For more information go to www.sharecare.com.

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