“A beam shone directly into a person’s eye can injure it in an instant, especially if the laser is a powerful one,” says FDA Health Promotion Office Dan Hewett.
Eye injuries caused by lasers can depend on several factors - the strength of the beam, the laser's wavelength, its time of exposure, movement and location.
"A laser creates a powerful, targeted beam of electromagnetic radiation that is used in many products, from music players and printers to eye-surgery tools," the FDA says. "When operated unsafely, or without certain controls, the highly-concentrated light from lasers...can be dangerous...not just to the person using a laser, but to anyone within range of the laser beam."
It's not just high-tech toys that parents need to watch out for - handheld laser pointers can also be risky in the hands of children. The strength of these devices has increased at least ten-fold during the past decade, according to the federal agency.
Here's how use laser toys safely:
1. Don't aim or shine a laser directly at any person or animal.
2. Don't point a laser at any vehicle, aircraft or reflective surface.
3. Make sure any laser product you purchase says “Class 1 Laser Product” on its label, which means it's FDA-recommended.
4. Don't buy laser pointers for children, and keep them out of their reach.
5. Consult a doctor immediately if you believe your child may have an eye injury.