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Bright Lights Big Hazard: FDA Comments on Laser Toys

A few years ago, lasers were novel and used primarily in eye surgeries or in high-tech industries. Today, lasers are found in toys for children and even for cats. Recently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a draft guidance document to heighten awareness of the dangers of lasers in products used by children and to solicit input about proposed guidelines for their use. 

Under the administration of the FDA, the Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH) provides commentary, research and safety information about medical and other devices that emit radiation. The guidance document posted by the FDA notes CDRH concerns include the following: 

  • Because of the lack of standards concerning lasers in toys marketed for children, unintended injury can occur with inappropriate use.
  • As radiation-emitting devices, laser toys can cause serious eye and skin injuries. Persons at risk include the individual using the device and anyone within range of its beam. Like looking at the sun, laser damage to the retina is usually not painful but can result in permanent vision damage or blindness.
  • Declining prices of laser components have widened availability of the devices in consumer products.

Laser toys should have 21 CFR labeling, which indicates compliance with the Code of Federal Regulations. Types of dangerous toys noted by the FDA include: 

  • Entertainment devices that create room laser effects
  • Dueling swords and other light saber-type products
  • Spinning tops or toys with projected laser lights
  • Optical laser devices for aiming toy guns 

With the potential danger posed by toy lasers, consider whether the best place for a light saber is in the movies.

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