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Why Are Laser Pointers Not Allowed In School?

Why Are Laser Pointers Not Allowed In School?

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Laser pointers are not allowed in schools because they can cause eye injuries and, in worse case scenarios, blindness.

Damage from lasers may not be detectable immediately, even in cases of long-term damage. 

In this article, we will look closely at the reasons behind laser pointers not being allowed in schools or colleges. 

Are Laser Pointers Dangerous For Kids?

eye injury hazard

Yes. There is no denying that laser pointers can be very dangerous for children, adults, and animals, and this remains true even when the laser isn’t particularly strong.

But how?

Although invented in the 1960s, lasers became a popular “toy” back in the early 2000s, and almost every child wanted to bring them to school with them.

However, a few weeks later, the number of red and sore eyes increased, and schools started to ban laser pointers. 

Within a few weeks, laser pointers got banned from schools.

However, the decision remained a controversial one for years to come.

Why is that?

Because some parents were adamant that these low-powered lasers were in no way related to the eye injuries that followed. 

Hence, the decade-long battle between the two sides began.

Over the years, several studies have been conducted to investigate the matter.

Almost all of them concluded that when laser pointers are operated unsafely and pointed directly at the other person’s pupil, it can be dangerous. 

This is not just true for lasers but any toy that shoots concentrated light in one direction.

Overexposure to light can kill the cone and rod cells in the retina.

This damage is because of the chemical released by the retina when overexposed.

If exposed for too long, it can lead to permanent damage, especially in kids, because their retina is still growing.

John Hopkins released a report stating the same. If your child experiences a blurry vision after being exposed to a laser pointer, you should get them to an optician immediately. 

Prompt treatment can reduce the risk of permanent vision loss considerably. 

Around the same time, the Food & Drug Administration (downloadable report) reports that the biggest issue with children who have been exposed to laser light for too long is that because of their developing retina, they may not feel immediate pain.

Instead, vision may depreciate over time and be affected permanently. For adults, the ramifications may not be as severe; still, there is a chance that they may get permanent damage. 

Why Are Laser Pointers Not Allowed In School?

a laser pointer in a hand

Laser pointers are a risk, especially in the hands of children.

Even if these pointers are not targeted toward another person, they will eventually find their way toward a living thing, especially animals.

To prevent any instance of animal cruelty, it is best to ban the pointers altogether. 

However, where common courtesy can’t deter schools from banning laser pointers, institutions need to strictly implement regulations.

Collectively, the set is known as the Laser Safety Standard. 

This standard monitors all activities that involve laser products and systems carried by either the teacher or students.

The goal of this standard is to avoid any liability caused by any damage to personnel or students due to misuse of the pointer. 

You can find Laser Safety within a school, college, or university’s Health and Safety Policy, specifically under the Control of Artificial Optical Radiation at Work Regulations.

According to this standard, an educational institute should:

  1. Only allow individuals with laser handling training or experience to bring laser pointers to the school.
  2. Endeavor to protect the eyes and skin of staff and students from exposure to laser beams 
  3. Eliminating or reducing the risk of exposure to a reasonably practicable level. The concentration should be minimal (no more than class 2 lasers) or training handlers in laser management protocol.

You can see a chart for reference in Laser Safety Facts

Do All Schools Ban Laser Pointers?

three students in campus

Ideally, yes. All schools should have laser safety protocols that allow only certified or ‘responsible’ person(s) to bring or use laser pointers in schools.

Schools that allow people to bring laser points into the premises should identify the users and conduct a short risk assessment (to satisfy the definition of due diligence). 

The school will need to register the person bringing said laser equipment into the premises and ensure that the laser is either class 1 or class 2 device.

Embedded products should also be registered. For example, some pencils back in the 2000s or key chains that could be easily concealed. 

Schools should make sure that these devices are registered with the relevant authority.

Information that needs to be recorded includes:

  1. Name of person
  2. Department
  3. Intended use
  4. Class of laser
  5. Device/Embedded product

If the person who brought the laser misuses it, the school should confiscate the laser and evaluate the damage.

If someone’s pre-existing condition can be exacerbated by the laser pointer’s use (for example, an adverse chemical reaction because of exposure to concentrated light), the individuals using laser pointers must be questioned. 

Depending on the severity and assuming all protocols have been followed, all liability would be on the person who brought the laser to school. 

Final Thoughts

Laser pointers are used in universities and military schools extensively but not so much in colleges and schools. People often ask why laser pointers are not allowed in schools, and the reason for this is straightforward — eye injury risks. 

College students are mature and understand the potential adverse effects lasers can have on health, especially when a laser is pointed at someone’s eye. Since students have to give presentations frequently at this stage, lasers can be useful. Although there aren’t strict rules like those in schools, college-going users need to be careful with the pointers.

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