Barcode scanners use visible light -- typically a
weak HeNe laser for their operation. The light is
scanned by a rotating mirror so that the spot
spend very little dwell time in any position.
While I could not recommend you looking directly
into the scanner light, many studies have
concluded that there is no danger to your eyes.
Red light is easily stopped by virtually any
clothing and at that intensity should have no
effect on your skin.
A laser is used merely
because it is easier to direct the beam as it is a
single color. Some more recent scanners use
infrared light which is not visible, and for which
the same arguments above apply. I cannot imagine a
mechanism for genetic damage from these sources.
This does not mean it is impossible, but it is far
less likely than mutation from any number of
natural causes (like breathing oxygen).
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