Why can lasers be dangerous?

A laser beam travelling through the air has a very long range because it does not diverge like a regular beam of light. The danger of a laser beam is that it can concentrate a great amount of energy in one small area. The power of a laser beam attenuates very slowly over distances.

When carrying out surgery or in industrial applications, for example, a powerful laser beam burns and vaporises tissue and other material. This is why a powerful laser beam hitting the eye or skin can cause permanent injury. In particular, lasers which work on the wavelengths of visible light and near-infrared radiation are able to cause permanent damage to the retina of the eye.

A laser beam does not intrude deep into tissue, which is why its ill-effects mainly consist of damage to the skin and different parts of the eye. A beam hitting the eye can be dangerous. It can cause permanent damage to the retina, because the beam focuses on a very small spot on the retina. This spot receives such large doses of energy, burning the cells of the retina so badly that they are unable to recuperate.

The most damage caused by lasers hitting tissue is the heating. Laser radiation energy absorbs in the tissue causing local and very powerful heating. The scale and severity of heat damage can range from a reddening of the skin to serious burn injuries.

The most important safety requirement is that laser beams are not directed towards people. When using a laser device, installation and operational instructions, and other safety regulations must be adhered to.

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