Lead aprons are common protection garments used for limiting radiation exposure from x-rays. They are worn by medical personnel during almost all x-rays, and sometimes by patients. They are used in hospitals, medical labs, dentist’s offices, and anywhere else there is potential exposure to radiation through x-ray equipment. Following is a little more information on what lead aprons are and how they are used.
Why are lead aprons necessary?
Any time a person is in the room where an x-ray machine is activated, they are exposed to radioactive isotopes. This exposure in large amounts can cause a number of issues, some of which can be fatal. It can affect the brain by killing nerve cells and blood vessels. It can destroy the thyroid gland. It can damage the reproductive tract, in some cases causing complete sterility. It can also affect the gastrointestinal tract, heart, and blood system. Wearing a lead apron provides the best protection against radiation exposure by blocking electromagnetic rays. Because of the natural density of lead, it’s one of the only materials that can nearly completely protect a person from this exposure.
Lead apron care
Caring for your lead aprons properly is crucial to maintaining the level of protection they’re intended to. They, along with other materials in the facility, will occasionally be exposed to dirt, blood, or other body fluids. This is especially true in emergency facilities, but it can happen anywhere. The best cleaning method is to gently wipe the apron down with cold water and mild detergent. It’s important not to use harsh chemicals that will deteriorate the rubber or vinyl coverings.
It’s also important to store them correctly. Your facility should have a rack or hanger designed specifically for hanging your lead aprons. But if, for some reason, you must stow them away, make sure they are laid flat, not folded.
It is critical and usually mandatory for healthcare facilities to have their lead aprons inspected. These inspections should take place at least once a year to make sure they continue to offer the appropriate level of protection. You can visually check your aprons for cracks or tears. But you’ll also need to actually x-ray your apron to look for compromises to the lead inside it.
Other types of x-ray protection
Although lead aprons are the most common type of protective gear worn in x-ray rooms, there are other types you might see. Lead glasses, for one, are usually worn by personnel or patients to shield the eyes from x-rays. Since the eyes are very sensitive and vulnerable to radiation, lead glasses are a common accessory.
Another type of protective gear is a lead thyroid collar. The thyroid is a very susceptible site for cancer caused by radiation. More and more practitioners are using these shields, but they are also being used on patients when repeated exposure is a concern. They are especially vital to patients or personnel who have already battled thyroid cancer or have been determined to be at risk.
The last common type of lead accessory is a half-apron. Lead half-aprons can be worn around the waist like a regular apron. The difference, of course, is the area of the body it covers. These are most commonly worn, however, to protect patients’ gonad and ovary regions from possible over-exposure.
All types of lead equipment are worn to protect the vital organs from harmful radiation exposure. This is usually only a problem for personnel who are exposed to x-rays on a daily basis. However, some patients have issues that may involve multiple x-rays. In these cases, x-ray technicians will do everything they can to make sure they are only exposing the areas needed.
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