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Risk of laser use at close range

Highlighting the dangers of laser use at close range

20 Apr 2016

An estimated 150 children in the UK have suffered eye injuries from laser pointer devices since stronger devices hit the market eight years ago. When used inappropriately at close proximity, lasers can cause serious damage to the eyes and also endanger passengers if a pilot is the subject of a laser attack, according to experts, 

Our Chairman, Kevin Thompson, was interviewed on Capital radio this morning about the dangers of laser attacks. Commenting on the risk to children, Mr Thompson said: “The key message here is that laser pens are not toys. And people should never aim a laser at people’s eyes, or animals’ eyes, or an aircraft or vehicles of any sort.”

Following news of recent attacks on pilots, Mr Thompson added: “Unlike normal bright torches – depending on their strength – laser pens can fire an extremely focused, concentrated beam of light for incredibly long distances. The cockpit windshield scatters the rays to create a massive flash of light – so it’s no different to someone jumping in front of you with a flash from a dozen cameras.”

When asked if a laser attack could cause lasting damage to a pilot’s eyes, Mr Thompson replied: “The retina is basically the film in the back of your eye that takes the pictures. Prolonged exposure to any sort of concentrated beam of light can irreparably burn the retina but, for lasers, primarily this is over shorter distances. 

“Fortunately evidence suggests that, over longer distances, laser attacks may not cause permanent damage,” Mr Thompson said. “However we would encourage anyone who has experienced such an attack, or think they have looked directly at any form of light, particularly sunlight for too long, to get to their local optometrist to have things checked out.”

The interview follows a new British Journal of Ophthalmology editorial today that UK children, not pilots experiencing laser strike, are most at risk of retinal damage from laser devices.

Watch our video highlighting our concerns over inappropriate use of lasers.

*Extracts from Mr Thompson’s comments above were broadcast on Capital’s news bulletins throughout the morning.*