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
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
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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