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News Picks : Australian laser pointer ban appears ineffective

By: Physics Today
24 June 2014

MIT Technology Review: In 2008 Australia's government banned all laser pointers with an output power greater than 1 mW because of several incidents in which lasers were used to try to blind aircraft pilots. Now, Trevor Wheatley of the University of New South Wales in Canberra has shown that the ban is not preventing the import of illegal lasers. He ordered 44 lasers advertised as being less than 1 mW from a variety of online stores with designations, whose owners should abide by Australian law. Of the lasers ordered, 1 never arrived and 3 were stopped by customs, which tested them and found that 2 were above the legal limit. Those lasers were confiscated. However, most of the 41 packages he received were unlabeled, so customs could not identify them. When opened, despite being advertised as less than 1 mW, 11 were labeled as less than 5 mW and one as less than 10 mW. And when tested, only two were actually less than 1 mW. The strongest was measured at 112 mW. The cost of the lasers didn't reflect their strength either. The most expensive was one of the two that was compliant with the law.


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