Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Lead Shielding Q & A

What are the options for lead shielding for staff in any medical or research facility?

There are a wide range of products that have been developed over time to help protect against X-rays and various type of radiation. The most common include lead aprons that dental technicians and medical techs use when completing X-rays for dental and medical procedures. Other options include lead shielding in gloves, often used in medical and research applications as well as specialized types of industries such as nuclear power facilities, labs and even in military applications.

A thyroid shield looks very much like a bandana, although it is lead lined and rather weighty. It is specially designed to provide lead shielding to the neck, preventing any type of radiation from penetrating the areas of the neck around the thyroid. They typically use Velcro to close at the back and are commonly see with medical and dental technicians that don't require a full apron. Specialized glasses that provide shielding for the eyes are also more common in X-ray rooms that in the past as researchers now are more cautious about any type of exposure on either short or long term conditions.

Why are there different levels of lead shielding indicated on specific products?

Different types of radiation production requires different levels of lead shielding in order to provide the maximum protection possible to humans in the room or area where the equipment is being used. There are two different measurement options for energy potential or amount of radiation produced. KVp or kilovolt peak is used with medical and research diagnostic equipment such as X-ray machines. MVp or megavolt potential is used in types of equipment most commonly associated with radiation therapies for cancer and other types of health conditions.
Depending on the mVp or kVp rating of the machine the lead shielding requirement will change. The higher the rating of the machine the thicker the lead shielding layer will need to be to provide the most protection. However, there are also other factors that come into play. The closer the operator or technician is required to be to the actual equipment producing the radiation the thicker the lead layer should be. Techs and people that are located further away from the equipment require less shielding. Lead shielding can also be used in construction equipment such as drywall and plywood for some rooms and areas. Lead bricks, lead lined doors and frames and even lead bricks may be required in facilities that are using research equipment or medical equipment.

What is the risk if lead shielding is not present when X-rays are used?

Short term exposure to X-rays is relatively harmless provided it is used according to the protocols and specifications developed. Getting an X-ray of a broken bone is not an issue, but long term exposure to X-rays can be a huge factor in developing different types of cancers and chronic health conditions. Since lead shielding is now used for any professionals that have constant low or high levels of exposure the risk of these types of health concerns is largely eliminated.

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