Dennis Robertson, M.D., Mayo Clinic ophthalmologist, conducted investigations with a green laser pointer directed to the retina of a patient's eye; the eye was scheduled for removal because of a malignancy. The green laser damaged the pigment layer of the retina, although it did not cause a measurable decrease in the visual function of the patient's eye. Dr. Robertson believes that longer exposures could harm vision, however. He also warns about potential damage from higher-powered green laser pointers.
"With the use of laser pointers that are more powerful than five milliwatts, there would likely be damage to the actual vision," he says. "Functional damage could occur within seconds."
Dr. Robertson does not advocate against use of green laser pointers; rather, he advocates against their misuse. "Green laser pointers are not a public health hazard at this time, but something people should be aware of," he says. "I'm raising concerns that people should be cautious when using green laser pointers not to point them at someone's eye or face. It's like how you use your knife -- carefully."
While pointing out risks of green laser pointers, he adds, "This is a potential hazard to people's eyes, but rarely is it going to be a practical hazard because the aversion reflex we have naturally will cause a person to blink or turn away from a laser light."
Green laser pointers are readily available in stores and on the Internet, according to Dr. Robertson. "Kids can buy these," he says. "They're not strictly regulated."