Laser Toy Safety Information from The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
By staff editor and updated on December 23, 2014
Many a kid (and parent) who has seen Luke Skywalker battle Darth Vader with a lightsaber thinks lasers are cool.
What they may not know is this: When operated unsafely, or without certain controls, the highly-concentrated light from lasers—even those in toys—can be dangerous, causing serious eye injuries and even blindness. And not just to the person using a laser, but to anyone within range of the laser beam.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is particularly concerned about this potential danger to children and those around them, and has issued a guidance document on the safety of toy laser products.
According to Dan Hewett, health promotion officer at FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health,
“A beam shone directly into a person’s eye can injure it in an instant, especially if the laser is a powerful one.”
However, laser injuries usually don’t hurt, and vision can deteriorate slowly over time. Eye injuries caused by laser light may go unnoticed, for days and even weeks, and could be permanent, he says.
Some examples of laser toys are:
- lasers mounted on toy guns that can be used for “aiming;”
- spinning tops that project laser beams while they spin;
- hand-held lasers used during play as “lightsabers;” and
- lasers intended for entertainment that create optical effects in an open room.
FDA Regulates Laser Products
Federal law requires that, other than for certain exceptions, laser products manufactured or assembled after August 1, 1976 must be in compliance with the Federal Performance Standards for Laser Products (21 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 1040.10 and 1040.11). At present FDA regulations do not specifically identify what constitutes children’s toy laser products. In June 2013, FDA issued a proposed rule that proposed to define children’s toy laser products and require them to be within the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) Class 1 emission limit.
While this rulemaking process is ongoing, CDRH recommends that manufacturers keep children’s toy laser products within the FDA Class I or IEC Class 1 emission limits in order to minimize the risk they pose to users and/or others in range of the laser beam, including the vulnerable population for whom they are intended.
Access link to the FDA guidance: http://www.fda.gov/downloads/MedicalDevices/DeviceRegulationandGuidance/GuidanceDocuments/UCM363731.pdf