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Why a Lead Apron Is the Perfect Radiation Blocker

By May 25, 2023July 25th, 2023No Comments

If you are a radiologic professional, you must protect yourself with some kind of radiation blocker. Unnecessary exposure to ionizing radiation in medicine, science, and industry can have profound and sometimes devastating effects on the different cells, tissues, and organs of the human body. Often, these degenerative changes may not appear until months or even years afterward.

Lead is the attenuating material that has been considered the gold standard for absorbing X-rays and gamma rays since the advent of radiology. Read on to discover how wearing a lead apron protects against the harmful effects of scatter radiation.


Harmful Effects of Radiation Exposure

Ionizing radiation can break chemical bonds and strip electrons from atoms and molecules. This may cause serious damage, such as cell death and mutations in DNA. The extent of any harmful effects depends on the type of radiation emitted, the dose received, and the parts of the body that are exposed.

The health effects of radiation exposure can be divided into two categories:

Deterministic effects:

  • These avoidable effects are sure to occur when a known threshold exposure limit is reached.
  • The higher the dose, the more severe the effect.
  • The mechanism of harm is apoptosis (cell death).
  • Examples include skin burns, cataracts, and fetal malformations.

Stochastic effects:

  • These unpredictable effects occur randomly by chance and are not dependent on the dose received.
  • There is no threshold dose below which they will not occur.
  • The mechanisms of harm are genetic mutation and cell modification.
  • Examples include leukemia, cancers, and hereditary disorders.


Medical Radiation Protection Requirements

The US Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA) and US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) set the standards for safety and protection from radiation.


Safety and Protection of Workers

All US employers and employees working in medical radiology must adhere to the standards laid down in Title 10, Part 20, of the Code of Federal Regulations: “Standards for Protection Against Radiation” (10 CFR Part 20).

Radiation safety is essential in many medical departments, including radiology, interventional cardiology, and surgery. Fluoroscopic procedures account for the largest radiation doses to medical staff. Other diagnostic procedures such as CT and PET scans also pose smaller, but significant risks.

The goal is always to prevent unnecessary occupational exposure by practicing the ALARA Principle—As Low As Reasonably Achievable. This is achieved by:

  • Minimizing the exposure time.
  • Maximizing the distance from the radiation source.
  • Using appropriate shielding devices, including physical barriers and specialized personal protective equipment (PPE).


Safety and Protection of Patients

The risks to patients associated with diagnostic or therapeutic radiation procedures should be limited by:

  • Minimizing the number of clinical images required.
  • Delivering the minimum dose needed for the medical purpose.
  • Using non-radiation alternative interventions where appropriate.
  • Avoiding any unintended or unwarranted exposure to radiation.


How Lead Reduces Radiation Exposure

Many materials block radiation. However, lead is still the most cost-effective, tried, and trusted defense against exposure. Let’s examine why lead is so effective:


#1: When Was Lead First Used as a Blocker for Radiation?

After their discovery in the late 1800s, x-rays were used with carefree abandon. However, prominent researchers started experiencing chronic effects and dying prematurely! Protective equipment containing lead became commercially available by the early 1900s.


#2: How Does Lead Block and Absorb Radiation?

Lead is a heavy metal with an atomic number of 82. Its atoms are bound tightly in a face-centered cubic crystal lattice, making it extremely dense. Electromagnetic radiation can’t penetrate it easily and is weakened in a process called attenuation. Lead atoms’ large number of electrons soak up x-rays and gamma rays!


#3: Why Is Lead Good for Blocking Radiation?

Lead has other characteristics that make it an excellent choice for blocking radiation. It’s abundant, malleable, and has a low melting point. It’s easy to machine and mill into different forms, such as foils, sheets, slabs, bricks, and wool. Lead can be alloyed with other metals, or combined with substances such as glass, rubber, and plastics to form a variety of radiation-blocking substances.


#4: How Is Lead Used to Protect Against Radiation?

Lead is used in many different radiation-protective products, including:

  • PPE: Lead aprons, thyroid collars, gloves, and eyewear.
  • Protective barriers: Mobile and full body barriers, pads, and table shielding drapes.

Browse Barrier Technologies® catalogs showing our complete range of all these products.


Why a Lead Apron Is the Perfect Radiation Blocker

All radiologic professionals should take the risk of radiation exposure seriously. A lead apron is indispensable protective equipment for any worker within 6 feet of an active X-ray beam. If within 3 feet, then a paired thyroid collar is also essential. Columbia University research states, “Lead aprons can absorb up to about 95% of any scatter x-rays that may be interacting with the wearer.”

A lead apron is specially designed to cover the torso and legs down to the knees. This protects vital lymph nodes and organs. It also shields acutely radiosensitive cells, including the reproductive system and blood-forming cells in the bone marrow of the femurs.

Barrier Technologies manufactures the highest quality lead aprons. We have carefully designed the ergonomics to reduce wearer fatigue and ensure exceptional fit and comfort. Our proprietary materials and closures promote ease of use and good hygiene. Choose your favorite style from our extensive range.


Find the Perfect Lead Apron for Radiation Protection at Barrier Technologies

At Barrier Technologies, nothing is more important to us than your health and safety. Our dedicated team continuously investigates new and better ways to protect you from the hazards of ionizing radiation. We strongly believe that pushing the boundaries of scientific research drives innovation.

Let us assist you with the perfect lead apron for your specific application. We offer several types of frontal, wraparound, and 2 piece vest and skirt options in 0.35 and 0.50 mm lead equivalence to suit all body types and radiologic workplaces. Our lead aprons are best when accompanied by our other technologically advanced shielding devices and barriers, for your complete peace of mind.

We are committed to providing the finest radiation blocker products. Get everything you need for complete radiation protection in one place. We guarantee you unbeatable quality, style, and convenience combined with reliable advice and the best possible service. Contact us today!