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Health officials in Australia have a warning for parents around the world: laser pointers are not toys.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported Thursday that a Tasmanian teenager had lost 75 percent of his vision as a result of shining a laser pointer in his eyes while playing with it. As a result, optometrists are warning parents of the dangers associated with something that many consider just a toy.
Optometrist Ben Armitage was called by the 14-year-old boy’s family physician to investigate why the boy was having difficulty with seeing. It soon became clear.
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“He came in to see me and on the Friday night he’d got a hold of a laser pen and unfortunately shined it in his eyes for a very brief period of time,” Armitage stated.
Armitage photographed the teen’s eyes and discovered he had permanently damaged the back of his eyes by burning his retinas.
“Unfortunately, that’s the area where your detailed central vision takes place and therefore it’s had somewhat of an exaggerated effect on how much sight he’s lost,” Armitage concluded.
Although the teen experienced no pain when he shone the laser in his eyes, the damage was almost instantaneous and his vision was impacted immediately.
Because his eyes have been burned near the area called the macular, his blindness was most likely permanent. Although Armitage was hopeful some vision might be restored after the swelling goes down, the teen will likely live with only 25 percent vision for the rest of his life.
Optometry Tasmania Chief Executive Geoff Squibb warned parents to avoid purchasing laser pointers for their children in the run up to Christmas this year.
Squibb stated that parents are “better off trying to warn them (children) off them because we’ve just seen in this particular case where the future lifestyle of this young person has been seriously affected.”
Although the majority of laser pointers sold in the United States are deemed safe by Food and Drug Administration guidelines, some that are imported improperly do not abide by federal guidelines. For this reason, health officials warn parents against allowing their children to use them.
The possible repercussions could be detrimental, even devastating. What appears to be a harmless toy is in reality a “silent killer” of cells needed for vision.
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