Hazards of hand held scanners

Written by natasha gilani
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Hazards of hand held scanners
Handheld scanners are used extensively in supermarkets to read barcodes. (barcode_02 image by Perth from Fotolia.com)

Handheld scanners are portable devices that find extensive use in a variety of applications. They are used for document scanning and order tracking in supermarkets and warehouses. They are employed in medical applications for disinfecting objects to eliminate disease-causing bacteria and viruses and prevent the spread of common ailments like influenza and diarrhoea. Barcode scanners are a specialised type of handheld scanners that use lasesr to detect barcodes and enter associated data into a computer. While handheld scanners provide numerous advantages in terms of portability and convenience, they are associated with some health hazards to cautiously explore.

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Ultraviolet Light Harms Eyes

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation emitted by UV scanners harms the eyes and can cause blindness, according to Jim Breithaupt in the book "Key Science Physics." Temporary damage is caused to the eye if the lamp of a handheld scanner is stared at for an extended period of time. Although the frequency of ultraviolet rays is kept at a minimum for these scanners, constant contact with the eyes is harmful. The ultraviolet radiation of a handheld scanner is at a different wavelength than regular ultraviolet light. This light causes ozone to form around the area where the ultraviolet light is aimed, killing microorganisms present in its vicinity. This light, however, causes skin problems in some people, damaging skin tissue and causing skin cancer in extreme conditions, according to Breithaupt.

Mercury Hazard of Ultraviolet Scanners

Mercury is the source of the UV light generated by handheld ultraviolet scanners. Mercury, upon entering the human body, can cause severe illness or even death. According to David B. Jacoby and Robert M. Youngson in the "Encyclopedia of Family Health Vol. 11," mercury poisoning causes slurred speech, irritability, drowsiness, throat soreness, vomiting and psychiatric illness. If the ultraviolet handheld scanner accidentally leaks or its bulb breaks, mercury is bound to leak and expose users to its manifest hazards. It can directly enter the bloodstream through a gash or a wound or if a small amount is accidentally ingested. The blood transports it directly to the heart and then the liver, where the poison sets in and causes organ failure.

Hazards of Laser Scanners

Laser scanners use lasers, which are concentrated beams of light that are strong enough to burn skin upon prolonged exposure. Handheld laser scanners are popularly used in object identification, and, although considered generally harmless in low-concentrations, they can cause fires if they are focused on a single spot for long enough. Laser beams can destroy the retinas if targeted at the eye for too long. Constant exposure to low-concentration laser beams can also cause eye impairment. According to K. R. Nambiar in the book "Lasers: Principles, Types and Applications," all laser scanners pose dangers if not handled responsibly.

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