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The Potential Hidden Hazards of a Laser Pumped Tunable OPO System

McPherson, Nicole A.*; Neal, Thomas A.; Johnson, Thomas E.

doi: 10.1097/01.HP.0000326330.24845.8b
Articles: Operational Topic

Laser pumped tunable optical parametric oscillator (OPO) systems from 1,300 to 2,200 nm have been introduced due to their retina-safe characteristics and ability to adjust to multiple wavelengths. We report on unintended consequences to a rabbit cornea resulting from OPO exposure. No gross injury was visible to the cornea post exposure; however, closer examination revealed a vitreous hemorrhage had occurred within the eye. Evaluation of the tunable laser system revealed a cracked crystal and a resultant 1,064 nm emission from the pump laser, rather than the desired 1,540 nm wavelength. This incident illustrates the importance of protective eyewear shielding against all potential wavelengths, including the pump lasers, when operating OPO tunable laser systems.

* Directorate of Health Education and Training at Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu Hawaii; † Center for Enterprise Modernization, The MITRE Corporation, 7515 Colshire Drive, McLean, VA 22102-7539; ‡ Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523.

An unintended exposure event highlights the need for laser safety officers to be alert to laser design and use when evaluating hazards.

©2008Health Physics Society