Last updated on July 7th, 2020.
Lead aprons are vital in shielding people from the harmful effects of radioactivity. They work by absorbing rays and halting their movement towards the person or object they are protecting. There are many varieties of these aprons available, so you probably might have a little difficulty in choosing one to fit your needs. I have provided a short guide on how these aprons serve their purpose and what you should consider when buying one for your use.
Energy Potential of the Radiation
The lead thickness of the apron will depend on the energy potential of the radioactive machine being used. This is measured in kilovolt peaks (kVps) for diagnostic equipment and megavolt potential (mVps) for radiation therapy devices.
Listed below are some recommended lead thicknesses for particular applications:
- X-ray for general medical diagnosis (150 kVp): 0.50 mm
- X-ray for general medical diagnosis (100-140 kVp): 0.35 mm
- Computerized Tomography (100-140 kVp): 0.35 mm
- X-ray for general medical diagnosis (below 100 kVp): 0.25 mm
- Dental x-ray (below 100 kVp): 0.25 mm
- Veterinary x-ray (below 100 kVp): 0.25 mm
- DXA type bone mineral densinometry units: lead apron unnecessary
The protective layer of the apron will vary depending on the kind and strength of radiation that it is intended to withstand:
- Beta rays do not require the usage of lead aprons; lighter materials such as Plexiglas may be enough to stop these rays from harming body tissues.
- X-rays generated by machines are usually high powered; thus, lead is used to protect people from them.
- Gamma rays are more powerful than x-rays. As such, nothing less than a thick panel can protect you from this kind of radiation.
Radiation scatters more as the distance increases between the target and the radiation source. The nearer the subject is to the source of radiation, the more lead is required to shield the subject. The radiologist will consider the patient or object’s body position and the distance between the machine and the recipient of the radiation.
The orientation of the radiation machine relative to the apron is considered when calculating its necessary thickness. It’s because the lead in the apron will scatter the radiation directed at it. The radiation specialist will estimate the expected movement of the rays as they encounter objects along their way.
The estimated frequency of usage of the apron will determine the level of lead shielding needed. Of course, you will need a sturdier apron if you see yourself using one regularly.
The thickness of the lead may be lessened if there are other materials in the room that serve as protection from radiation.
Remember to check your lead aprons during the following instances:
- Upon purchase
- Before using
- After a regular period
- At least once a year
- When damage is suspected
Defects are best detected with imaging techniques such as through fluoroscopy or computerized tomography, but these defects can also be seen normally. If there are holes, tears, creases, or spots on the material, alert the radiologists and/or the manufacturer. The following are some things to watch out for:
- A torn area or a hole that is bigger than 5 mm
- Several tiny spots grouped together
- Dark lines
- Thinning areas on the material
Inform the manufacturer or the personnel responsible for the lead aprons if you have observed anomalies on the products. Defective products need to be replaced right away to ensure your safety.
Pros and Cons
Lead aprons are more reliable and cheaper than other shielding materials. However, they can be heavy and they require a lot of maintenance. This should not pose a problem, though, because there are lead-based aprons that are made of a composite material that is lighter than traditional lead. Also, radiology specialists are well-trained on how to maintain the proper functioning of these kinds of aprons.
Such as with all kinds of medical devices, shielding equipment prices vary according to brands. Be diligent when you shop around since you will eventually come across aprons that fit your budget.
For your safety, do some research the background of the brands selling radiation protection aprons and check for their credibility. There are reviews and feedback of these items available online. If you want to know where you can get a lead apron, I strongly recommend Kemper Medical, a global distributor of high-class yet affordable medical supplies, as a viable source of lead aprons and other radiation protection gear.