Have you ever wondered what happens if you get an X-ray without protection? The most likely result is nothing. The amount of radiation utilized by modern X-ray machines is so minute that the risk attached to a single X-ray is statistically negligible.
But is that a chance you’re willing to take? For instance, a woman has dental X-rays without protective shielding. A few days later, she is overjoyed to find out that she is pregnant! When she excitedly goes for her 4-month scan, her baby is diagnosed with spina bifida. If only she had been offered a protective apron on that fateful day.
What Are the Harmful Effects of X-Rays?
X-rays are a wonderful tool for medical diagnosis. However, they should always be used according to the ALARA principle—As Low As Reasonably Achievable. X-rays are ionizing electromagnetic radiation that can strip electrons from atoms and molecules. This may result in serious, irreversible damage to cells and the genetic material that they contain.
All radiation doses are cumulative. The more X-ray exposure over time, the greater the likelihood of a negative consequence. This is called a deterministic effect. Also, once-off harm is improbable, but not impossible. This stochastic effect occurs by random chance.
Here are some key harmful effects of X-rays:
#1. Tissue Damage
Overexposure to X-rays may damage your cells and tissues. This can cause a host of nasty health issues including skin burns, hair loss, radiodermatitis, cataracts, or radiation-induced organ damage.
#2. Genetic Mutation
Radiation-induced mutations in the DNA of your eggs or sperm can be passed on to your offspring. Heritable genetic disorders can cause chronic developmental problems or diseases.
X-rays are a known carcinogen. Repeated exposure puts you at increased risk of developing cancer, particularly in radiosensitive tissues like your breasts, thyroid gland, and bone marrow.
#4. Radiation Sickness
Acute exposure to high doses of X-rays may give you radiation sickness, with horrible symptoms including nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and hair loss. Severe cases can lead to death.
#5. Fetal Damage
Developing fetuses are extremely susceptible to X-rays. Even small amounts of radiation exposure have severe consequences such as birth defects, developmental issues, or even miscarriage.
Can It Be Possible to Have Harmful Effects From Dental X-Rays?
Yes, dental X-rays can be potentially damaging. However, the probability is much smaller than for other forms of medical radiography. Dental X-rays use minute amounts of ionizing radiation to diagnose problems with teeth and their surrounding structures. However, even though the exposure is minimal, it’s not entirely safe.
The hazards of dental X-rays include a slight increase in the risk of cancer, particularly in sensitive tissues like the thyroid or salivary glands. There’s also a fractional chance of genetic mutations and damage to oral tissues.
Barrier Technologies® Dental X-Ray Aprons shield against the harmful effects of dental X-rays. They protect the chest, thyroid, and vital organs from unnecessary radiation exposure. This precautionary measure significantly reduces the chance of any adverse effects while allowing for necessary dental imaging.
For the best, safest protection, try our lead-free aprons covered in anti-bacterial and stain-resistant UltraFlex™ fabric and fitted with Velcro-free MagnaGuard™ magnetic closures.
What Are the Potential Outcomes When a Lead Apron Is Not Used?
Leaving off the lead apron during X-ray procedures carries health, ethical, and legal consequences for radiologic professionals and patients. The National Center for Biotechnology Information has posted an excerpt on “Radiation Safety and Protection” detailing issues of concern and how to enhance outcomes.
Below are some of the unpleasant implications of omitting radiation protection.
#1. Threshold Dosage
Without appropriate protection, individuals get bombarded by unnecessarily high levels of ionizing radiation during X-ray procedures. Accumulation of radiation over time can push an individual over the minimum dose threshold for deterministic effects such as cancers and genetic damage.
#2. Acute Effects
High doses of radiation can cause immediate health effects in susceptible individuals, including the previously discussed symptoms of radiation sickness. Not wearing a radiation-protective apron increases the likelihood of these acute symptoms.
#3. Legal Problems
All radiologic facilities have a legal obligation to ensure the safety of personnel and patients. Failing to provide suitable radiation protection apparel and equipment could result in lawsuits and misconduct investigations.
#4. Occupational Diseases
Healthcare professionals who routinely perform X-ray procedures, such as radiologic technologists and dentists, are at a heightened risk of radiation exposure. Without proper protection, they may suffer from higher rates of occupational radiation-induced diseases.
Why Do You Have to Wear a Lead Apron When Getting an X-Ray?
X-ray machines emit a tightly focused, controlled beam of high-energy electromagnetic radiation that passes through the target area. Denser tissues absorb more X-rays, appearing white on the resulting image. Less dense tissues allow more X-rays to pass through, appearing darker. This differential absorption creates a detailed X-ray image for diagnostic purposes.
When X-rays pass through a body, some change direction and reflect off different structures. These rays bounce around the room and may impinge on other body parts not directly in the X-ray beam. This hazardous secondary radiation is called scatter radiation.
Wearing lead aprons protects personnel and patients from the potentially harmful effects of scatter radiation. A lead apron acts as a shield, absorbing and attenuating the majority of scattered X-rays, thereby reducing the risk to radiosensitive vital organs. These include the thyroid gland, breasts, reproductive organs, and bone marrow in the femurs.
Barrier Technologies offers a wide selection of radiation-protective lead and lead-free aprons. Browse our extensive Apron Catalog to find the perfect style and fit for you and your application. Additionally, studies show that most scatter radiation comes from the patient. Therefore, no radiology room should be without X-ray Table Drapes—think of these as an apron for your exam table!
Barrier Technologies Has You Covered
Why do you have to wear a lead apron when getting an X-ray? The answer is better safe than sorry! Now that you know what might happen if you get an X-ray without protection, it’s time to discover the ultimate in radiation-protective apparel and accessories from Barrier Technologies.
Your safety is our concern, and our state-of-the-art aprons provide unparalleled defense. They offer premium quality, maximum durability, and ergonomic design for all-day comfort. Equip yourself with the best radiation protection available to safeguard you and your patients against scatter radiation. Contact us for information about how we can revolutionize your safety regimen.