Whether we realize it or not, every day we’re exposed to radiation. Although it varies depending on which part of the world you live in or what type of work environment you’re exposed to, a level of background radiation is always present.
Natural sources of radiation include cosmic rays originating from space and radon gas emitted from the Earth’s surface. These natural sources of radiation, however, are not solely responsible for all radiation exposure. In radiology, the biggest source of man-made radiation exposure originates from CT scanning. Women are generally more susceptible to the harmful effects of radiation, so it’s especially important for hospital staff to ensure that the proper equipment is provided to female radiation professionals.
In this blog, we’re taking a closer look at how X-ray radiation affects female radiation professionals and the unique protective needs of pregnant X-ray technicians, nurses, and physicians.
Women’s Lead-Free X-Ray Aprons
Lite Tech offers a wide array of styles that are available in male and female sizing. A particularly popular style among women is the adjustable weight apron, which provides added flexibility in movement and sizing through its crisscross strap design and Velcro attachment.
For radiology specialists who have a personal apron for daily use, there are additional ways that Xenolite women’s X-ray aprons can be customized.
View the wide array of fabric materials, patterns, and embroidery options available for your lead-free radiation shielding apron from Xenolite.
X-Ray Protection for Pregnant Women
Gynecologic imaging is an area where women are especially vulnerable to the harmful effects of radiation. Age, pregnancy, and whether the patient or practitioner is breastfeeding elicit increased risk.
In general, embryos, babies, and children are more sensitive to radiation because their cells are reproducing at a faster rate. The period in which an embryo is most sensitive is from 8 to 15 weeks gestation age, according to the American Association of Physics in Medicine (AAPM).
Pregnant X-ray technicians should confirm their pregnancies to their employer in order to ensure the safety of herself and her fetus. Once the declaration is filed, the fetus should be treated like a member of the general population at healthcare facilities. The International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) recommends that a fetus be exposed to less than a total 1.0 mSv of radiation throughout the pregnancy. With the proper precautions in place, there should be no problems in staying well within safe radiation limits.
The best ways for female X-ray technicians to protect themselves and their pregnancies are by monitoring the time spent working with radiology equipment, their distance from radioactive materials, and the amount of shielding worn to reduce radiation levels for themselves and their fetus.
For the safety of female radiation specialists who must take X-rays while pregnant, Lite Tech offers a maternity product referred to as the “pregnancy panel,” rather than a pregnancy lead apron.
This pregnancy radiation protection product can be added to any Xenolite women’s X-ray skirt style apron and provides added shielding to the entire abdomen. When it comes to working with X-ray radiation and medical imaging, pregnant women can never be too careful.
Women represent an important demographic in the radiologic sciences sector today. The Radiologist Assistant Practice Survey reported in 2015 that 48.6% of respondents were female; not to mention the population of female hospital support staff.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) encourages medical facilities to allow expectant women to continue working in their regular settings, provided the fetus is not exposed to more than 1 mSv during gestation. Expecting mothers should only continue to work in a radiation setting of their own volition, rather than because of an employer mandate, if they follow this recommendation.
Other protective measures that should be taken, regardless of gender, include:
- Eye protection, such as leaded glasses (prescription lenses are available) and face shields
- Thyroid protection in the form of a neck shield or thyroid collar
- Hand protection (this is available but provides limited protection; best practice is to avoid exposing your hands and wrists to direct beam or scatter radiation sources)
For more information about pregnancy and X-ray exposure, taking X-rays while pregnant, and using lead-free X-ray aprons for pregnant women and other radiation shielding gear, contact us today.