Is It Possible to Blind a Baby With a Camera Flash?


A frightening new story circulating online alleges that a 3-month-old was blinded by the flash of a camera pointed less than a foot from his face. (Photo: Getty Images) 

In a new story that is going viral online, a family in China alleges that their 3-month-old boy was blinded in one eye after a friend took a close-up photo of the infant and the flash went off just 10 inches from his face.

“The baby’s parents noticed that there was something wrong with his vision soon after the picture was taken,” according to the culture website ViralSpell, which translated the story from the Chinese-language outlet The People’s Daily.

When they took the child to the hospital, “the damage was diagnosed as permanent and doctors say that it cannot be fixed with surgery,” the article alleges, detailing that the flash of the camera “damaged cells in the boy’s macula — the part of the eye in which incoming light rays are focused [and] such damages can lead to the loss of central vision.”

Scary stuff, for sure, but highly unlikely, according to Dr. Alex Levin, chief of pediatric ophthalmology and ocular genetics at Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia. “If this story were true, there would be lots of blind babies out there,” the ophthalmologist tells Yahoo Parenting, calling the events detailed “inconceivable.”

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“We operate on young babies and shine a very bright light directly on the most sensitive parts of their eyes for up to 30 minutes at a time, and even that doesn’t cause blindness,” says Levin. “Retinas are made to last, and it’s highly unlikely that this kind of light would cause damage.”

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It’s more likely, the doctor surmises, that the infant was already blind in that eye and physicians discovered his condition when they examined him. “To attribute the blindness to the taking of a photograph would be incorrect,” Levin insists. “There’s no way that a camera can cause such damage.” Flashes are diffused light, he explains, “so they’re harmless.”

The same rule applies to flashlights and even super-bright sunlight. Staring directly at the sun, on the other hand, isn’t a good idea as far as protecting your vision, “but babies won’t intentionally fix their gaze on the sun anyway,” he says.

The only thing parents do want to keep away from children to protect their eyesight is a laser pointer. “They can actually damage your retina,” Levin says. “Laser beams are highly focused sources of light, which can cause a burn.”

But even if say, an older child aimed a pointer at a new baby’s face, don’t worry. “Incidental exposures, where a beam momentarily goes through a child’s vision,” says Levin, “are likely to be safe.”

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