Machine Design
Danger: Red and green laser pointers

Danger: Red and green laser pointers

After testing 122 commercially available laser pointers, researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology found that 90% of the green and 44% of the red pointers did not comply with federal safety regulations. In fact, they often emitted more power than allowed, and green lasers also tended to put out unacceptable levels of IR light as well.

A NIST safety officer and the device used to measure the properties of handheld laser pointers.

The tests used randomly selected commercial devices labeled as Class III or 3R and sold as suitable for demonstrations in classrooms and other public spaces. These lasers are limited under the Code of Federal Regulations to 5 mW in the visible portion of light and less than 2 mW of IR light. But half the pointers exceeded twice that limit at one or more wavelengths, with one putting out 66 mW, more than 10 times the legal limit.

According to ANSI, lasers that exceed the federal limits should be subject to more rigorous controls, such as user training, to prevent injuries.

Resources: National Institute of Standards and Technology

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