What Is a Lead Apron for Radiation Protection Used For?

Does your work require you to wear a lead apron for radiation protection? It is vitally important to select the right apron for the task and wear it properly, to provide adequate shielding from the radiation source. Always treat your apron as though your life depends on it—this crucial personal protective equipment might be all that stands between you and a potentially debilitating or even deadly radiation-induced disease.

Barrier Technologies® explains exactly how this essential garment protects you from the hazards of scatter radiation. Continue reading for more information on how to choose, wear and care for your lead apron.


What Is a Lead Apron?

A lead apron is a defensive garment designed to shield 75% of the body, from the shoulders down to the knees. It covers most of the radiosensitive areas. This includes the major lymph nodes and organs in the torso, the reproductive system, and blood-forming bone marrow in the femur.

1. Core Material

All lead aprons contain a flexible lining made from lead rubber or vinyl. This attenuating core material is the crucial component that shields the wearer. It’s important to choose a thickness suited to the duration and intensity of the radiology application. Barrier Technologies supplies lead aprons with a core material thickness of 0.25mm Pb, 0.35mm Pb or 0.50mm Pb LE for radiation protection.

2. Outer Cover

The lead core material is encased in fabric. Many commercially available aprons are covered with porous fabric that’s impossible to clean and can harbor all sorts of infection-causing microorganisms. Barrier Technologies uses UltraFlex™, our proprietary anti-bacterial/stain-resistant 4-way stretch, extremely comfortable fabric. It’s impervious to fluids and is also stain resistant.

3. Closure

The apron’s closures must be quick-release for easy donning and doffing. Most manufacturers use Velcro for convenience, but velcro accumulates harmful bacteria that can be a health risk. Barrier Technologies introduces MagnaGuard™, our revolutionary patented invisible magnetic closure system.


How Are Lead Aprons Used?

The function of lead aprons is to reduce exposure to scatter radiation that arises during medical imaging such as radiography, fluoroscopy, and computed tomography. Both medical personnel and patients may use lead aprons, depending on the type of X-ray application.

Always remember that a lead apron can only be effective when:

  • It’s worn correctly and fits properly.
  • It’s matched with the level of radiation energy in use.
  • It’s appropriate for the type of radiologic procedure performed.
  • It’s monitored using a personal dosimeter badge.
  • It’s properly stored and maintained.
  • It’s regularly inspected for safety.
  • It’s used in a regularly inspected facility.


Advantages of Lead Aprons for Radiation Protection


1. Lead Is the Preferred Core Material

Although there are alternative core materials for radiation protective aprons, tried and tested lead is still the preferred attenuating material for highly energetic X-ray radiation. A very thin layer is sufficient to block and even absorb dangerous scatter radiation. Lead aprons are indeed heavy and burdensome for lengthy procedures, but any discomfort is far outweighed by lead’s efficacy and cost.

2. A Lead Apron Drastically Decreases Radiation Dose

All radiation doses received are cumulative. Every single dose contributes to avoidable long-term damage or may cause immediate harm by unlucky chance. Studies show that a well-chosen lead apron can cut the overall effective dose by over 90%. The greatest reductions detected are 98.0–99.9% in the breasts and 99.9% in the spleen!

3. A Lead Apron Absorbs Scatter Radiation

Studies of lead apron use in radiology indicate further benefits. Any incidental scatter radiation bounces off surfaces and is deflected in all directions. It continues rebounding, losing a tiny bit of momentum with every collision. This is called the Compton effect. Leaded rubber core material not only directly protects the area that it covers, but also acts like a sponge by soaking up any scatter radiation that impinges on it. Interestingly, wearing a lead apron actually decreases scatter radiation to both eyes, even though they are not directly covered.

4. Pair Your Lead Apron with a Thyroid Collar

A final point highlights a peculiar localized effect. Wearing a lead apron alone records a minute 0.01% increase in the dose received by the highly radiosensitive thyroid gland. This can be completely mitigated by always pairing your lead apron with a thyroid shield collar.


Proper Care and Storage of X-Ray Protective Aprons

If you adhere to the following recommendations, your lead apron can remain serviceable for many years:

Maintaining Your Lead Apron
✔ Clean regularly
✔ Inspect for defects.
  • Look for cracks, creases, perforations, lumps, and sagging.
  • Feel for thinning areas.
  • Radiographically or fluoroscopically inspect suspicious areas.

✔ Keep an inspection log.

  • Record all inspections from the time of purchase.
  • Barrier Technologies offers a cloud-based app to manage, track and inspect your aprons. Check out Barrier Track!
✔ Store properly.
✔ Dispose of safely.
  • If it can’t be recycled, it must be disposed of by a registered biohazardous waste company.
✖ Sit on it.
  • This causes creases and cracks in the core material.
✖ Fold, crush, or crumple.
  • Any damage reduces safety and serviceable lifespan.
✖ Use bleach or harsh detergents.
  • Chemicals cause “lead rot”, forming toxic lead salts and oxides.
✖ Clip pens or nametags to it.
  • “Vampire marks” caused by clips are among the most commonly observed flaws.
✖ Expose to extreme temperatures or sunlight.
  • These perish the lead rubber core material and release toxic lead powder.
  • Don’t autoclave your apron.


Protect Yourself from Radiation Exposure with a Lead Apron

Are you looking for a lead apron for radiation protection? Barrier Technologies offers an extensive range to suit all radiologic applications. Feel free to browse our catalog and choose from one of our frontal, wraparound, or vest and skirt options.

For rapid service, try our ReadyTo Go Aprons and we’ll ship within 24 hours of order confirmation. Ensure that you get the perfect fit for your size and body shape by downloading our convenient X-ray Apron Sizer.

Barrier Technologies are leaders in radiation protective products. We break barriers with advances in technology to enhance your safety. Contact us today!