A German bus driver found out the hard way that laser pointers actually can damage the human eye.
About six months ago, the 44-year-old driver noticed that someone on the bus was messing around with a laser pointer that was reflecting in his rearview mirror. As he tried to figure out who the culprit was, he looked in the mirror several times, as the boy, who was about 15 feet away, continued to shine it into his eyes.
Initially the bus driver experienced some blurred vision in one of his eyes and wasn’t too concerned, but after six months passed and he was no better, he got his eye looked at by an ophthalmologist. Upon examination, it was revealed that there was a small spot of damage on the inner workings of his right eye — specifically the macula, which is responsible for central vision and is located near the retina. According to Live Science, his doctors noted that this was the first time damage had been reported as a direct result of a laser pointer.
Laser pointers being in the news is not uncommon, unfortunately. While they are great tools in the workplace, in schools (when teachers use them) and for entertaining your family pet, they are a pretty specific and concentrated source of light that can cause distraction, a temporary inability to see and, as we see here, actual damage to the human eye. People have been arrested for pointing them at aircraft, fined for shining them in the eyes of NFL players and searched after blinding drivers on the road.
But even if someone doesn’t buy a laser pointer for nefarious reasons, they can still be used in a harmful way, especially when a child doesn’t understand the potential for accidents or damage. Incredibly, there are children’s toys that come equipped with lasers (for example, toy guys that have a laser “sight” attached to it), and reports say this is the type of laser the German boy pointed at his bus driver’s mirror.
This has become such an issue that the FDA has released a warning about laser toys, noting that while laser injuries don’t always hurt, the laser itself can deteriorate vision over time, and parents should stress the importance of playing with these types of toys responsibly. This means don’t shine them in anyone’s eyes (including pets), avoid shining them on reflective surfaces and that they can be a danger to others if used in inappropriate situations (such as someone driving a vehicle).
We as parents should probably avoid toys that come with laser beams, and if our kids get them as gifts, thank the gift giver, and then offer your child the opportunity to exchange it for something more appropriate. We should also instruct our kids on how to properly use a laser pointer — namely, if they can’t handle appropriately playing with one with their cat or dog, they probably shouldn’t have one at all.