Green Laser Pointers and the Illegal/Legal Divide

August 24, 2021
By Alpec

The Concerns Surrounding Green Laser Pointers

A bit of background: In 2013, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce, tested 122 laser pointers and found that “nearly 90 percent of green pointers and about 44 percent of red pointers tested were out of compliance with federal safety regulations.” (Read more about the NIST findings here.)

Concerned about users’ exposure to high levels of radiation from green lasers, Harvard University’s Radiation Services updated their guidance about lasers in 2019, stating: “due to the eye’s sensitivity to green light, and also green lasers carry a risk of IR exposure, green laser pointers should not be used.” (Read the Harvard guidance here.)

However, two key safety elements were missing from a vast majority of the green lasers tested by the NIST.

1. Not using an IR filter. Infrared filters, or IR filters, are sometimes called infra-red cut-off filters or heat-absorbing filters, depending on which field you are using them in. They are designed to reflect or block near-infrared wavelengths but not block visible light.  Lasers that do not use IR offer no protection to the user from the dangers of infrared light – you will see the green light but your eyes are not protected from damage such as temporary blindness, light flashes and more serious, long-term effects. And, because the human eye is more sensitive to green light, green lasers produce the brightest frequency of visible light.

2. As we discussed in another post, lasers above 5 mW are available in the United States. Laser classes 1, 2 and 3, the classes Alpec sells, max out at 5 mW. That is they produce no more than 5 milliwatts of power yet produce a comfortable visible region for the human eye. Illegal green lasers are often marketed as class 3 but the NIST study tested green lasers as high as 13 times over the legal limit, or 66.5 mW.

Green Laser Pointers and Star Wars

Did you ever notice that the sabers used by various Star Wars movie characters are green laser sabers? We did.  Like in Star Wars, lasers are dangerous and should only be used for their intended purpose. Lasers are not toys and should not be treated as toys or given to children as toys.

Green Laser Pointers with IR Filter

At Alpec, we produce quality laser pointers. Our laser pointers are considered premium in the marketplace, offering 100% IR filtration to prevent “ghost lighting” from inadvertently damaging your eyes. This IR filtration along with sealed, tamper-proof laser housing ensure a safe laser experience. Though we make a class 3a, 5 mW green laser pointer, it exceeds FDA requirements. It is also 30 times brighter than red lasers, a boon for using lasers over longer distances.

The Bottom Line: Alpec Lasers are Safe

Are green lasers inherently unsafe? No. The Harvard Study also said: “Laser pointers are completely safe when properly used as a visual or instructional aid.”

Alpec lasers are safe. What is unsafe is other companies building products that do not follow federal safety regulations. And unsafe products then used unsafely are a hazard.

Unsure about which green laser is safest or has the right features for your business needs? Let’s discuss which laser pointer is right for your business needs.