What Blocks Radiation: 2 Types of Radiation Protection Materials

Scatter radiation is a healthcare hazard that inflicts cataracts, cancer, and other conditions on doctors and staff and patients that require frequent diagnostics.

If you’re wondering what blocks radiation and which materials are most effective, this article is the best place to start learning about the radiation protection products.


How to Block Radiation: An Introduction

If you want to know how to stop radiation, you need to start by understanding what radiation is and how it works. To help you get started, this section of the blog post introduces you to x-ray basics.

Are you already familiar with x-rays? Skip to the next section for actionable advice on how to block radiation.


What is X-Ray Radiation?

X-rays are a kind of electromagnetic radiation. EM radiation is a spectrum that encompasses a huge range of rays, including microwaves, sunlights, radio waves, and x-rays. The spectrum is divided into eight categories, organized in order of increasing energy and decreasing wavelength.

From low frequency to high frequency, here are the eight kinds of electromagnetic radiation:

  • Long radio waves
  • Radio & TV waves
  • Microwaves
  • Infrared rays
  • Visible light
  • UV rays
  • X-rays
  • Gamma rays


Ionizing Radiation vs. Non-Ionizing Radiation

These eight types of EM radiation are further divided into two categories:

  • Ionizing radiation (gamma rays & x-rays)
  • Non-ionizing radiation (long radio waves, radio & tv waves, microwaves, visible light, & UV rays)

Ionizing radiation has the dangerous ability to impact and break chemical bonds and ionize atoms. In contrast, non-ionizing radiation is generally safe, as it doesn’t have the energy required to knock electrons out of atoms.

For example, the most common injury from non-ionizing radiation is sunburn, while two of the most common injuries from ionizing radiation are cataracts and cancer.

Consequently, when it comes to blocking radiation, healthcare organizations are most concerned about blocking ionizing radiation. Especially since x-rays and gamma rays are the two kinds of radiation used to help diagnose and treat patients.

How Does X-Ray Radiation Work?

Unlike visible light and radio waves, which cannot penetrate objects, x-rays move at a high frequency that enables them to pass through soft tissue. This makes them ideal for diagnosing conditions like bone fractures, tumors, arthritis, and osteoporosis.

For example, in the case of a bone fracture, the patient’s arm is placed between the x-ray generating machine and a film or sensor. The x-rays then pass through the arm and are picked up by the sensor. This creates a kind of shadow, revealing the bone structure of the arm.

What Are The Health Risks of Radiation?

Unlike forms of damage that heal over time (like scratches and bruises), radiation damage never goes away. Instead, with each new exposure, the damaging effects of x-rays build up in the body, accumulating over time and eventually causing a litany of severe and potentially deadly conditions.

Exposure to ionizing radiation can result in any one of the following conditions and reactions:

  • Cataracts. Interventional Radiologists are at a high risk of developing radiation-induced eye injuries.
  • Skin cancer. Prolonged exposure to scatter radiation increases the likelihood of developing skin cancer.
  • Other cancers. Consistent radiation exposure increases the odds of thyroid cancer and other cancers.
  • Organ failure. Ionizing radiation can damage organs and tissue, impairing functioning.

Failure to block radiation can also cause skin redness, loss of sensitivity in fingers, radiation burns, hair loss, and acute radiation syndrome.

As you can see, radiation poses severe risks to everyone who regularly comes into contact with it. This is why it’s crucial for hospitals, clinics, and individual practices to equip their staff and physicians with radiation blocking protection.

How to Stop Radiation With Shielding

The three primary ways to protect yourself from radiation exposure are:

  • Limit time. You should try to reduce the amount of time spent near a radiation source.
  • Increase distance. Stand as far as possible away from the radiation.
  • Use radiation blocking shielding. Wear radiation proof materials or stand behind x-ray blocking shields.

Of these three techniques, the one most relevant to this article is the use of radiation shielding.

This section will answer the question, “what absorbs radiation?” and will help you select the ideal x-ray protection for your healthcare facility.

What Materials Can Block Radiation?

X-ray shields and radiation-proof barriers work thanks to a property called “attenuation.” Attenuation is the process of particles losing momentum as they pass through a material.

When it comes to blocking gamma radiation and x-rays, the best materials are those with maximum density and attenuation. This is why lead has been the go-to radiation blocker for decades. It has an extremely high number of protons per atom (82 protons apiece), making it one of the densest substances available.

Lead gloves, sleeves, aprons, blankets, lead glasses, and even epoxies and putties can be used to mitigate the effects of scatter radiation. Mobile radiation shields and other barriers can also be used for even stronger protection, as the thicker the layer of lead, the more effective its attenuation becomes.

Lightweight Radiation Blocking Materials

An unfortunate downside to lead is that it’s heavy, cumbersome, and uncomfortable to wear for long periods. So while lead garments may work to block radiation, the downside is that wearing a heavy lead apron can lead to various musculoskeletal problems.

Another disadvantage is that lead is a hazardous substance that requires special disposal precautions.

To help solve these problems, the engineers here at Barrier Technologies have developed innovative radiation blocking materials lighter than lead and environmentally friendly.

Our proprietary attenuation blend is made out of an amalgamation of tungsten, magnesium, titanium, bismuth, and other metal alloys and results in radiation-proof materials that are over 30% lighter than their lead counterparts.

For example, where a standard lead apron will weigh 11.3 pounds, our lightweight aprons weigh just 7.2 pounds while still delivering an equal amount of attenuation.

Radiation Proof Garments From Barrier Technologies

Ready to protect yourself and your team members from the damaging effects of scatter radiation? Barrier Technologies offers a wide array of radiation blocking materials and garments to help you keep staff and patients safe.

Browse our online catalogs or contact us today to place an order.