Radiation-Emitting Products

Laser Products and Instruments

Notices to the Laser Industry

Information

Description

Products that use laser energy come in many sizes, shapes and forms. What they have in common is a laser which stores energy from a source, such as, an electrical discharge, chemical reaction or powerful optical illumination that releases the energy as light.

Laser stands for Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation. One basic type of laser consists of a sealed tube, containing a pair of mirrors, and a laser medium that is excited by some form of energy to produce visible light, or invisible ultraviolet or infrared radiation.

LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) are different from laser diodes and are not subject to the Federal laser product performance standard.

An ordinary source of visible light, like the sun or a light bulb, emits a mixture of invisible and visible light like waves. These waves have varying lengths and move in all directions. These differing “wavelengths” produce different types of light, such as ultraviolet, violet, blue, green, red and infrared.

Unlike ordinary light, laser light has a specific wavelength and amplification of this specific wavelength results in a focused narrow beam of light that can be emitted in one direction. The amplification, focus, and directionality of this light concentrated in a small area can create a very high intensity light even at large distances from the laser.

Uses

Risks/Benefits

Laser products improve the quality, precision, accuracy, security and reliability of many forms of products, materials, communications and data handling. In order to realize the benefits of lasers, the risks of laser exposure must be managed.

Laser Hazard Classes

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognizes four major hazard classes (I to IV) of lasers, including three subclasses (IIa, IIIa, and IIIb). The higher the class, the more powerful the laser and the potential to pose serious danger if used improperly. The labeling for Classes II–IV must include a warning symbol that states the class and the output power of the product. Approximate IEC equivalent classes are included for products labeled under the classification system of the International Electrotechnical Commission.

Class FDAClass IECLaser Product HazardProduct Examples
I1, 1MConsidered non-hazardous. Hazard increases if viewed with optical aids, including magnifiers, binoculars, or telescopes.
  • laser printers
  • CD players
  • DVD players
IIa, II2, 2MHazard increases when viewed directly for long periods of time. Hazard increases if viewed with optical aids.
  • bar code scanners
IIIa3RDepending on power and beam area, can be momentarily hazardous when directly viewed or when staring directly at the beam with an unaided eye. Risk of injury increases when viewed with optical aids.
  • laser pointers
IIIb3BImmediate skin hazard from direct beam and immediate eye hazard when viewed directly.
  • laser light show projectors
  • industrial lasers
  • research lasers
IV4Immediate skin hazard and eye hazard from exposure to either the direct or reflected beam; may also present a fire hazard.
  • laser light show projectors
  • industrial lasers
  • research lasers
  • lasers used to perform LASIK eye surgery

There are laws, regulations, and standards that require engineering controls and risk communication to aid in the management of the biological hazards associated with each laser class. However, no controls are completely effective if lasers are improperly used.

Laws, Regulations, & Standards

Manufacturers of electronic radiation emitting products sold in the United States are responsible for compliance with the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA), Chapter V, Subchapter C - Electronic Product Radiation Control.

Manufacturers of laser products are responsible for compliance with all applicable requirements of Title 21 Code of Federal Regulations (Subchapter J, Radiological Health) Parts 1000 through 1005:

In addition, laser products must comply with radiation safety performance standards in Title 21 Code of Federal Regulations (Subchapter J, Radiological Health) Parts 1010 and 1040:

Manufacturers of laser products can request an alternate means of providing radiation safety; this is called a Variance:

The document Exemptions from Electronic Product Regulations has been assembled to simplify the process of finding all the exemptions provided for in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Parts 1000-1050 and those granted by an agency letter or Laser Notice.

Laser products that are used for medical applications must also comply with the medical device regulations. For more information, see: Getting to Market with a Medical Device.

Laser products designed and promoted for the production of laser light shows, displays, advertising, etc. are demonstration laser products subject to the requirements of 21 CFR 1040.11(c).

Page Last Updated: 04/21/2014
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