Best Lead Aprons for Optimal Radiation Shielding

If you want the best x-ray lead aprons, then Barrier Technologies® has got you covered! Lead personal protective equipment (PPE) is vital to protect all radiologic professionals from the hazardous effects of ionizing radiation.

There are several factors to take into account when choosing a lead apron. You may be wearing it for long periods of time, so weight is important. The type of radiologic apparatus you work with also influences the level of protection required. Finally, there are several different styles, cuts and lengths—you should select one that suits your height and body shape, while still offering maximum protection.

What Is an X-Ray Lead Apron?

An x-ray lead apron is made of special material that drastically reduces the dosage of radioactivity that the wearer absorbs. This shielding process is called attenuation. Inside the apron is a lining made from lead mixed with rubber, and/or other attenuating substances. The lining is covered in hardwearing and comfortable fabric. Lead aprons are designed to protect the most vital parts of your body, while still allowing for mobility.

The Two Types of Lead Aprons

Lead aprons can be categorized into two types, depending on what is in the protective lining:

  1. Regular lead aprons: Lead (Pb) is the only attenuating substance used in the lining. Lead is the original protective element used to shield the user against the potential dangers of radiation exposure, and is still widely used. These aprons have a very reliable protection rate, but are extremely heavy and extended use may even cause musculo-skeletal problems, such as back pain.
  2. Lead Free aprons: The lining contains other attenuating substances instead of lead. With modern technological and scientific advances, there are now several different types of radiation protection in use. The material is an amalgamation of several different  alloys including Tungsten, Magnesium, Titanium, and Bismuth. This reduces the weight of the apron by up to 35%, while still maintaining all-important protection equivalent to lead.

How Do You Choose the Right Style of X-Ray Lead Apron?

The best lead apron to protect you against radiation must comply with the ALARA principle—you must keep your risk of exposure As Low As Reasonably Achievable. Ask yourself the following questions to assist in your selection:

  • What type of procedures am I performing?
  • How long do these procedures last?
  • Do I require frontal protection or full protection?
  • How often will I require radiation protection?

Your answers to these questions can then be used to choose your core material and style of apron:

#1: Choose your Core Material

Your first decision is to choose the type of lining that best suits your needs. X-ray aprons fabricated with 100% lead are the standard in radiation protection, but are also the heaviest garments. Lead Free linings are lighter with a negligible fractional difference in protection. Barrier Technologies offers both types in two thicknesses:

  • 0.50mm with 99% attenuation @100kVp.
  • 0.35mm with 97% attenuation @100kVp.

#2: Choose the Best X-Ray Lead Apron Style

Deciding on the type of lead apron that best suits your purposes depends on the coverage required:

  • Frontal protection: If you aren’t going to be turning or moving around during the procedure, this is a good option. These aprons allow you to adjust the fit for improved comfort. Most of them have buckles, straps or Velcro fasteners. However, several Barrier Technologies’ options feature MagnaGuard™, our revolutionary magnetic closure system.
  • Full protection: The full wrap options cover both your front and back for maximum protection. These come in a one-piece full wrap apron or two-piece vest and skirt. The two-piece options allow greater scope for movements such as sitting or bending over.


The Best X-Ray Lead Apron Accessories for Radiation Protection

Once you have decided which type of apron best suits your needs, you can choose add-on leaded accessories to boost your protection:

  1. Thyroid shield collars: These are often attached to an apron, but can also be purchased separately. It is critical to protect the sensitive thyroid gland against x-ray radiation.
  2. Head caps: These are styled like surgical caps. They provide protection for the entire cranium.
  3. Protective sleeves: These protect the arms against the harmful effects of scatter radiation. They are available in full and half lengths.
  4. Belts: Many aprons come with belts, but you might want to opt for an Elastic Belt with Draw Strings or an Ortho Belt for extra support, and to prevent back strain and fatigue.

FAQs About Choosing the Best X-Ray Lead Aprons

Q: How often should lead apparel be checked for protective integrity?

A: All protective lead garments must be checked once a year for defects. First, they should be checked visually, then fluoroscopically or radiographically if any defect is found. Any damaged or defective item can’t be used. It must be repaired or replaced.

Q: What thickness of lead stops x-rays?

A: Firstly, no shielding material can completely stop x-rays—they can only be attenuated to an amount near 100%. The recommended minimum thickness is 0.25mm, but most radiation apparel contains a thicker layer from 0.35 to 0.50mm.

Q: How can you tell the quality of a lead apron?

A: The protective apron should comply with the current IEC 61331-1:2014 testing standard. You can physically check the garment by feeling it: Does the lead lining feel thinner in certain areas? Does the lining go all the way to the seams? Is the cover fabric and stitching of good quality?

Q: When should a lead apron be replaced?

A: If looked after properly, a lead apron should last up to 5 years before it needs to be replaced. However, with wear and tear, and improper use and storage, most are generally replaced within the first 3 years, well below their intended lifespan.


Barrier Technologies is a leader in the development and manufacture of x-ray lead aprons and other radiation apparel. We offer an unmatchable level of safety and quality in all our innovative radiation protective products. If you are looking for the best lead aprons for radiation protection, you can download and browse our extensive catalog. We have a style to suit every radiologic application. Contact us today for expert advice, or to place your order.