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Thursday, May 10, 2018

5 Things You Should Know About X-ray Protection Technologies and Health

In the 1890s, Wilhelm Roentgen experimented with inventions that would become today's X-ray machines. For his contribution, he received the first Nobel Peace Prize for Physics. While this was one of the first purposeful uses of radiation, some form of radiation has always been in existence. Our uses of radiation have evolved over the last few decades. And with it, so has our understanding of the need for radiation protection against the harmful elements of radiation exposure.

Here are 5 things you should know about radiation, X-ray protection, and your health.

1. Radiation protection grew out of X-ray use.

In the late 1980s, the world was reeling with the discovery of X-ray technology. Scientists and researchers delved liberally into using X-ray imaging apparatuses with no awareness of the possible side effects. This disregard for the damaging effects of X-rays continued for several years. Widespread and unprotected use continued. But soon individuals began to report various symptoms.

The dangers of X-ray use were documented by a doctor and a professor with the Vanderbilt University. These two individuals experimented with taking X-rays of one of their heads, which resulted in a loss of hair. William J Morton, Thomas Edison, and Nikola Tesla are among others who reported various irritations as they used X-ray technology.

In the early 1900s, William Rollins, a pioneer in radiation protection, discovered that X-rays could kill lab animals. And that a pregnant guinea pig was unable to carry to term due to exposure to X-ray radiation. Thus the connection that radiation could kill a fetus.

2. Lead as radiation protection was the gold standard for many years.

Most any material provides some protection against radiation waves if used in large amounts. The challenge scientists faced was to find materials that allowed movement while also shielding from gamma rays.

Studies on materials and various radiation waves evolved. Researchers soon discovered that different shielding techniques were needed depending on variables. For example, the type of energy waves, as well as the application of those energy waves into daily use.

For many years, lead was used as the standard of protection when it came to X-rays and radioactive material protection.

With its high molecular density, lead is effective at preventing penetration of gamma rays. To this day, it continues to be used as a protective shielding material against radiation. Certain applications are best suited for the use of lead plates, lead glass, lead bricks, and other barriers.

Today there are many alternatives to lead that offer the same protections, but without the weight, density, and bulkiness of lead.

3. Industry revolutionizing alternatives to protective wearables.

Professionals who are exposed to radioactive material must wear X-ray protection in the form of gloves, glasses, and aprons. Because lead is blended with additives to make it wearable, the result of this blend is often unwieldy.

Non-lead protection uses composites of tin, tungsten, antimony, and bismuth, among others. The exact blend differs based on the manufacturer. But all of these materials are lighter in weight, yet have the same capacity as lead to block radiation.

4. Heavy shielding gear can cause back issues.

Radiologists wear X-ray shielding gear on a daily basis. A 2014 study surveyed 148 radiologists spanning 10 hospitals. Thirty-eight percent of the radiologists reported work-associated pains and injury. And forty-one percent of those surveyed complained of lower back pain.

Back pains are one of the leading causes of disability around the world. Many medical experts agree that wearing heavy materials is likely the cause of back pain in the aforementioned study.

Additionally, lead based protective gear is costly to dispose of in an environmentally friendly manner. By contrast, non-lead-based protective options are easier to recycle. Therefore, the use of non-lead protective gear has become a popular option to those in this field.

5. Outside of X-rays, these are your common sources of daily radiation.

Mankind has been exposed to natural sources of radiation since our beginnings on the planet earth. The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission lists these naturally occurring sources of radiation:

• Radon and thoron - 37 percent
• Cosmic - 5 percent
• Internal - 5 percent
• Terrestrial, soil - 3 percent

Naturally occurring sources of radiation amount to 50 percent of the radiation we are exposed on a day to day basis. Manmade sources of radiation account for the other 50 percent. The sources are medical procedures at 36 percent, nuclear medicine at 12 percent, consumer products at 2 percent, and Industrial and occupational exposure at 0.1 percent.

This is a guest blog entry.

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