In some places, laser pointers are used so commonly that they’re taken for granted. Common use, however, does not mean that the pointers are entirely safe. In fact, it’s the people who use them the most that have the biggest need for glasses that protect against laser pointers. This is because heavy users are the ones who get the most exposure to the laser light and are more likely to end up accidentally looking at it directly. Compounding this issue is the fact that the pointers are more powerful now than they were at the time they were first introduced to the market.
Laser Pointers Aren’t All the Toys They Once Were
When laser pointers first came about, the consumer versions were little more than toys. This is still true of the inexpensive ones sold in places like convenience stores. Now, however, the ones sold for professional use are much stronger – strong enough to cause temporary blindness. If eye exposure happens repeatedly, it can even cause further problems with vision. It’s clear that in some cases, it’s worth it to wear special glasses that protect against exposure to laser light.
Eye problems aren’t the only dangers associated with laser pointers. Some modern pointers are strong enough to pop balloons or even light cigarettes. These can easily cause burns to the skin much like those that would be produced by exposure to hot wax. Of course, lasers this strong can cause even more eye damage than normal ones, so it’s very important to be careful with them.
This type of blindness results from sudden exposure to bright light. Many people experience it after looking at the flash of a camera. Bright lasers cause the same effect.
When this type of blindness is experienced, the biggest problem is usually the increased chance of accidents during the time vision is affected. Because of this fact, pilots should always wear glasses that protect against the effects of having a laser beam hit the eyes. Although the FAA has warned against pointing lasers at planes and even has put fines in place to punish those who do this, some people – especially children – don’t realize the danger and don’t know about the fines. This means that there is still a chance that a pilot will be blinded by ground-based laser pointers.
Flash blindness is also a problem in other professions. Anyone who operates moving equipment in an environment where laser pointers are in use should wear protective glasses. The same is true of people who are subject to frequent exposure to laser light and simply don’t like not being able to see every time it happens.
Preventing Eye Damage and Flash Blindness from Laser Pointers
One of the most effective methods doesn’t involve the use of glasses. Instead, laser users are trained in common sense practices like making sure not to point active devices at other people, not looking directly into the light themselves, and making sure to turn the devices off before setting them down. This is usually sufficient for normal circumstances, such as using a laser light during a presentation.
In some cases, common sense isn’t enough to control exposure to laser light. If many people in a meeting are using lasers, the chance of someone accidentally pointing their light in the wrong place increases. Another situation that commonly leads to unwanted exposure is when children get their hands on a pointer. Kids are far more prone to think of them as toys even when told otherwise, and they’ll likely have some fun by putting red (or green) dots on everyone within range. In the latter case, the best thing to do is take the pointers away from the kids and give them extra drills on safe use.
One situation that can catch people by surprise arises when lasers are pointed at mirrored surfaces or objects with a similar shine. The light will reflect off of the surface and can hit people who the user thought were out of the way of the beam.
When the decision is made to use glasses or goggles to block laser light, it’s important to choose the right kind. This is because laser pointers are commonly made in one of two colors: red or green. Some glasses are made to block both sets of wavelengths, but others can only provide protection from one or the other. Glasses that offer protection from light in the 615nm-700nm wavelengths, for example, protect against red laser light. Usually, the glasses will note their active bands in plain English, so there won’t be a need to memorize the specific wavelengths of each type of laser pointer.
Even though red and green are the most common colors for laser pointers, there are a few that produce light on more unique wavelengths. Blue is one that is becoming more popular lately, but other colors are also possible. If exposure to these colors is expected, choose glasses that include those wavelength bands in their spectra of protection. Some glasses are made to block multiple colors of laser light. These are most useful for people who face exposure from a variety of pointers, but they also make it easy for anyone to just grab a pair and be all set.
To learn more about lasers and how to mitigate the dangers associated with them, just contact us. We’ll be glad to help you choose the right glasses and implement other safety measures.