scouts-l Mail Archive for November of 1999: Laser Pointers/Pens vs Laser Tag (Part 1 of 2)
Richard Axtman (scout_king@YAHOO.COM
Tue Nov 09 1999 - 16:56:45 CST
To understand the differences between "Laser Pointers/Pens" and
the popular game "Laser Tag" we need to know the facts. Then
we can make an educated decision on what is safe and what isn't.
I've tried to thoroughly cover this subject in the information
Laser Pointers (sometimes referred to as laser pens) contain a
small diode laser and come in the shape of pens or small key chain
novelty items. They emit a red or green colored light dot on a map
or chart in a professional lecture. Green lasers are more dangerous
than red. They are usually portable, low powered, battery operated,
hand held laser devices. These are usually class 1 or class 2 laser
pointers. Laser pointers are also used as gun and bow sights. The
laser also produces a very narrow beam which diverges, or spreads
out, very little with increasing distance from the source. This low
divergence property means that the laser output is highly
forming a pencil-like beam that will still appear as a small spot
when shone against a surface, even at large distances (ie 100 meters
plus or 328 feet plus). A consequence of this is that high power
devices can present a hazard over considerable distances.
Typical Laser Pointers come in five classes of power:
Class I lasers - are products where the power of the laser beam
produced (the accessible emission) is always below the Maximum
Permissible Exposure value. Therefore, for Class I lasers the
output power is below the level at which it is believed eye damage
will occur. Exposure to the beam of a Class I laser will not result
in eye injury. Class I lasers may therefore be considered eye safe.
Class II lasers - are limited to a maximum output power of 1 mW.
A person receiving an eye exposure from a Class II laser, either
accidentally or as a result of someone else's deliberate action
(misuse) will be protected from injury by their natural blink
reflex. This is a natural involuntary response which causes the
individual to blink and avert their head thereby terminating the
Class IIIA lasers - are higher powered devices and may have a
maximum output power of 5 mW. Accidental exposure to a laser
of this power are no more hazardous than accidental exposure
to a Class II laser.
Class IIIB lasers - may have an output power of up to 500 mW.
They may have sufficient power to cause an eye injury and
therefore considered hazardous to the eye. However, the extent
and severity of any eye injury arising from an exposure to the
laser beam will depend upon several factors including the
radiant power entering the eye and the duration of the exposure.
Class IV lasers - have an output power greater than 500 mW.
There is no upper restriction on output power. They are
capable of causing injury to both the eye and skin and will
also present a fire hazard if sufficiently high output powers
are used. These lasers are not designed to be used as Laser
The higher the Class number, the greater the laser radiation
and hazard posed by the laser.
The following safety considerations should be observed when
using laser pointers:
1) Never look directly into the laser beam
2) Never point a laser at a person
3) Do not aim the laser at a highly reflective surface
4) Only use laser pointers that have
a) Laser Radiation labeling
b) Classification as Class 2 or 3a (see label)
c) wavelength between 630 and 680 nm
d) maximum output less than 5 mW
In December, 1997, the FDA issued a warning to parents and school
officials on laser pointers after becoming concerned about the
promotion and use of these products as children's toys. Some
states and school systems have made them illegal for children
to own or operate.
In New Jersey they are working on a law that made Parents whose
children possess the device can face civil penalties up to $1,000.
The maximum penalty for selling a device to anyone under 16 would
be a fine of $1,000 and six months in jail. Harassing a Police
officer with one is punishable by a fine of up to $15,000 and
a prison term of three to five years. Lawmakers are most
concerned about people who shine a laser pointer on a law
enforcement officer, who can mistake the red dot for a targeting
device on a high-tech firearm and pull a gun in self defense.
(See Part 2 of 2 for the rest of the story.)
Serving You and Scouting,
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