As new lower-cost laser technology becomes more readily available to consumers, laser safety experts at the Laser Institute of America (LIA) are concerned for the public’s safety.

Recently released to the public and promoted as the world’s first 445 nm direct blue diode portable laser with output powers of up to 1 Watt, an internet retailer is selling this Class 4 laser product for under $300. “Our concerns are for the consumers, uninformed of the hazards, who may operate the device placing themselves and others at risk of injury,” stated Peter Baker, LIA’s executive director.

Class 4 lasers emit enough energy to be hazardous to the eye or skin from a direct beam, or indirectly reflected laser light. Even exposure to reflections scattered off of a matte surface may cause an eye injury. They are considered a fire hazard. Visible wavelengths can produce levels of light that can produce visual interference at large distances away from the source. This is normally a concern for individuals operating vehicles, boats or aircraft. It is also important to note that laser illumination of any aircraft will be investigated by law enforcement and anyone caught illuminating aircraft will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

As laser technology continues to develop, more powerful portable (handheld) laser systems are being produced at lower costs. This means that Class 4 lasers systems that produce visible emissions are becoming more accessible. Various laser safety standards referenced by state and federal agencies provide guidance for the safe use of these types of lasers in the workplace. However, consumers who buy Class 4 lasers, or organizations that have not implemented a laser safety program may not be aware of the hazards or the proper methods used to contain and control the hazards. Improper use of a Class 4 lasers can result in the operator, spectators or people in the vicinity of the laser operation being injured.

“As the authorities in laser safety we feel we must warn the consumer about the inherent danger that exists,” warns LIA’s education director Gus Anibarro. “We urgently recommend not purchasing this or any other Class 4 laser device until you have had proper laser safety training and understand what is involved in securing what will be a Class 4 laser environment.