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Good Point: Lasers Reach Fifty Years of Progress Thanks to Standards

Since the development of the first functioning laser fifty years ago, tremendous strides have been made by scientists and inventors all over the world in the quality, functionality, and use of these devices. Laser development and applications have been enhanced by the work of standards, using the technology in everything from music to medicine.

American National Standards (ANS) make significant contributions to laser use and safety in the United States. Standards developed by the Laser Institute of America (LIA), a member of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and an accredited standards developer, guide laser use as it pertains to health care facilities, educational institutions, outdoor applications, and more. LIA holds the secretariat of the ANSI Accredited Standards Committee (ASC) Z136, a group that develops and maintains a number of ANS for laser safety:

Did You Know?

The first laser light was produced by Theodore Maiman in May 1960. Shortly thereafter in 1964, Townes, Basov, and Prokhorov shared the first laser-related Nobel Prize in Physics.

A number of additional Nobel Prizes have gone to researchers working with laser technologies, including one to U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu in 1997. Then a researcher at Bell Labs, Dr. Chu was honored alongside Claude Cohen-Tannoudji and William Daniel Phillips for their methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light.

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From the international perspective, U.S. experts have taken a strong leadership role in the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) Technical Committee (TC) 76, Optical radiation safety and laser equipment, which develops International Standards for laser radiation safety. Jerome Dennis, a consultant in product optical radiation safety, serves as chairman, and the United States National Committee (USNC) has delegated secretariat duties to William Ertle, president of Rockwell Laser Industries, Inc. The USNC-approved Technical Advisory Group (TAG) administrator for TC 76 is the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), an ANSI member and accredited standards developer.

With the support of nine working groups that address different elements of lasers and radiation, one joint working group with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and an advisory group, TC 76 has developed the IEC 60825 series of standards with many diverse applications. Industries that have been served by TC 76 documents include communications, lighting, medical technologies, and even entertainment. The committee continues to grow, and has seen an increase of more than thirty percent in the past ten years.

"In times of economic slowdown, to see the committee growing is a positive sign," said Mr. Ertle. "For the size, niche, and participation, we are one of the most relied-upon Technical Committees, and we produce quite a few standards."

The ANSI Z136 series of standards and the IEC 60825 series of standards are available for purchase on an individual basis or through convenient packages at

To learn more about standards for laser safety, see the IEC article and the LIA website.


Jana Zabinski

Senior Director, Communications & Public Relations


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Beth Goodbaum

Journalist/Communications Specialist


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