How Effective Are Lead Aprons? Here’s What You Need to Know

Radiation is one of the most serious concerns across many different industries, including medicine and veterinary. Without proper protection, exposure to radiation can lead to dangerous and long-lasting health problems. Some of these potential health problems include increased chance of cancer, chromosomal abnormalities, or skin damage.

Luckily, protecting against radiation exposure is simple: wearing the correct protective gear, such as lead aprons. Barrier Technologies is an industry leader in protective gear against radiation. With over two decades of experience, Barrier Technologies has innovative products ready to protect you from the harmful effects of scatter radiation.

Lead Aprons: What Is It?

A lead apron is a piece of defensive clothing worn when the body has the potential to be exposed to scatter radiation. The apron is composed of lead and rubber with a cloth exterior. The apron is often used in tandem with other radiation protection gear, such as lead glasses and lead thyroid shield collars.

Most often experienced by the general public when visiting the dentist or receiving an x-ray or medical scan, it is also used by professionals in the nuclear, defense, and veterinary fields. In all of these industries, vital internal organs must be protected from various sources of radiation. For those regularly being exposed, such as veterinarians, it is imperative to protect the entire upper body.

Nowadays, many lead aprons are made up of an amalgamation of different alloys blended together to create protective materials, such as tungsten, magnesium, aluminum, etc. rather than lead. These elements possess the same protective qualities, but lighter atomic weight. Therefore, they are better for those who wear this gear constantly because it is lighter on the body. Most of the aprons manufactured by Barrier Technologies are lead-free.

How Effective Are Lead Aprons?

Lead aprons can be trusted to protect the body from an overwhelming majority of radiative rays. They work by forming a strong, protective barrier between the body and radiative beams. Thanks to the density of lead, the atoms from the radiation cannot penetrate the apron; this provides a reliable defense against potentially health-damaging effects.

Some of the benefits provided by wearing a lead apron include:

  • Reproductive Protection. Reproductive organs in particular are vulnerable to radiation. Since radiation changes the atoms making up the organs, the eggs or sperm could undergo unintended genetic mutations. These mutations would then be passed on to any potential children.
  • Reduce Chances of Cancer. Studies have shown that exposure to radiation correlates with higher chances of developing cancer. By protecting the body from scatter radiation, chances of developing cancer as a result of radiative exposure is lessened.
  • Keep Organs Healthy. Repeated exposure to radiation, especially for the industries previously mentioned, can lead to irreversible molecular change to the organs. In the worst case, this can cause organ damage and, in the worst-case scenario, organ failure.

Lead Apron Thickness for Radiation Protection

The thickness of a lead apron is very important, as it relates to its overall effectiveness. For example, the radiation protection provided by a lead apron is approximately the same as lead with a thickness of 0.25mm to 1mm. An apron with a thickness of 0.5mm can weaken roughly 90% of the present scatter radiation.

The thickness of the lead apron has been carefully calculated to take advantage of the elemental properties of lead. The reason lead is used to block radiative rays is due to its comparatively high density. The density of the atoms inside the element lead (Pb) makes it extremely difficult for the rays of radiation to pass through and reach the body.

How Lead Aprons Are Properly Used

In order to ensure full and effective protection, the lead aprons must be utilized properly. Besides making sure they are hanging straight upon the body, they should not be folded in along the back or sides. It is important for the garment to fit well, being conscious of potential exposure at the neck and armholes. Should these openings be too large, it is possible radiation could unintentionally bypass the lead apron.

Different Parts of Lead Aprons

Proper usage of lead aprons begins with making sure all parts are accounted for and being implemented correctly. A normal lead apron has six parts, each protecting a different part of the upper body.

The main parts of a typical lead apron are:

  1. Head protector. This sits atop the head, stretching from the forehead to the base of the neck and covering both ears.
  2. Face shield. Since the eyes are particularly exposed, they are vulnerable to radiation. A face shield helps protect against lasting damage.
  3. Front cover. This will protect the front of the upper body.
  4. Lower shield. As previously mentioned, the reproductive organs are at serious risk from permanent radiation damage. The lower shield is designed to specifically protect the lower body.
  5. Arm and shoulder cover. Having this extra piece helps offset the potential exposure at the arm holes.
  6. Belt. A belt ensures the apron stays in place.

Types of Lead Aprons and Their Effectivity

There are three main types of lead aprons, all with their own characteristics. All can be trusted to provide protection against radiation.

Three main types of aprons are:

  • Regular lead aprons. This is made from lead and lead composites. It has a reliable high protection rate, but is heavy to wear for long periods of time.
  • Lead composite aprons. Incorporating other elements reduces the weight of the apron while maintaining the protective qualities.
  • Ready-to-go (RTG) lead aprons. These aprons are ready to be shipped out as soon as possible. With standard sizes and colors available, they can be delivered in as quick as 20-30 days. They are lead-free.

Barrier Tech has customization options available. For instance, if a university hospital needed to order aprons with a specific color scheme and logo, Barrier Technologies can fulfill the exact specifications.

Lead Apron Inspection and Inventory Policy

Much like any product, lead aprons are prone to wear and tear over time. Considering the importance of their use, it is imperative that lead aprons are inspected every year to guarantee their continued effectiveness. For aprons being used in healthcare, the Joint Committee set standards for annual inspection.

It is recommended for the inspection to be visual and tactile, feeling carefully for invisible tears, sagging, or deformed areas. Tiny holes and cracks can be found using radiography.

How to Properly Dispose of a Lead Apron

If a lead apron is no longer of use, it must be properly handled. Correct disposal options consist of:

  • Contacting a recycling company
  • Contacting a hazardous waste or handling company
  • Delivering aprons to a local landfill

Barrier Technologies: Quality Lead Aprons for Radiation Protection Provider

Barrier Technologies creates innovative protective products to your exact specifications, including lead aprons. Not only are our lead aprons manufactured with the highest possible quality, but also possess light weights and flexible material. Barrier Technologies is where comfort meets safety, and we always aim to provide both superior products and customer service.

So whether you are a member of the nuclear, medical, veterinary industry or beyond, we can protect you from head to toe. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to reach out and contact us today.