X-rays, as highly energetic electromagnetic radiation, lie well beyond the range of visual perception. Their immense energy allows them to create ions by displacing electrons from atoms, making them a type of ionizing radiation. This ionization process can lead to the breakdown of molecules in living tissues, resulting in harmful health effects. Experiencing extreme x-ray exposure may lead to symptoms of radiation sickness, including hair loss, bleeding, gastrointestinal issues, and skin sores. Additionally, prolonged exposure can have medium to long-term effects, potentially leading to conditions such as cancer, low blood cell counts, and even infertility.
Significant progress has been made in understanding the health impacts of x-ray radiation since its discovery in 1895. Consequently, specific threshold limits for x-ray exposure have been established, ensuring that no known short-term health issues arise when staying below these limits. By consistently adhering to these thresholds, healthcare personnel, technicians, and researchers can effectively prevent short-term health effects, promoting a safer environment for all.
Nonetheless, even at low exposure levels, the long-term impact of cumulative x-ray radiation can lead to health issues. Cataracts in the lens of the eye, for instance, can result from such cumulative exposure. Studies have indicated that there is no safe low-dose threshold to prevent cataracts from ionizing radiation. Furthermore, an inverse relationship exists between the occurrence of cataract formation and the level of x-ray dosage. Even at low dosage levels, frequent exposure can merely delay the onset of cataracts.
X-RAY SCATTER AND RADIATION SAFETY
When an x-ray machine emits primary radiation and it interacts with the patient, certain x-rays get deflected. Additionally, objects like the table or chair on which the patient lies can also cause x-ray deflection. This scattered radiation can potentially impact nearby doctors and technicians. The intensity of this scatter is influenced by various factors, including the distance from the patient and the angular positioning relative to the patient.
X-ray scatter is typically more intense on the entrance side of the patient and less on the exit side. Larger patients tend to generate more scatter compared to smaller patients. Additionally, the amount of scatter that reaches a doctor’s or technician’s eyes depends on their height.
To ensure safety, many doctors and technicians adhere to two measures: maintaining a minimum distance from the patient and wearing badge monitors. By consistently following these safety protocols and if the badge monitors show no exposure, it is generally assumed that the adverse health effects of x-ray scatter are negligible.
However, maintaining a safe distance does not guarantee zero exposure to scatter. Studies have shown that x-ray scatter beyond this safe distance can still have enough intensity to penetrate a person’s hand and generate an x-ray image of the bones within it. This phenomenon occurred despite the technician’s badge monitor indicating no exposure. The reason behind this occurrence lies in the film used for imaging the bones, which had a higher sensitivity to x-rays compared to the badge monitor. Thus, even with safety measures, it’s essential to remain vigilant about potential scatter exposure in certain scenarios.
The significance of this lies in the realization that even when technicians maintain a “safe” distance from the patient and their badge monitor shows no exposure, small amounts of stray radiation can still reach their unprotected eyes. Following standard safety measures might lead technicians to believe that lead glasses are unnecessary. However, as previously mentioned, cataract formation can result from cumulative exposure to x-rays of any intensity.
Technicians with long careers spanning several decades, involving numerous x-ray exposures throughout each workday, may accumulate tens of thousands of exposures. This poses a significant cataract risk. Considering that cataracts are common in late life due to other risk factors, the accumulated x-ray exposure further increases the risk compared to the general population.
Therefore, despite seemingly low individual exposures, the cumulative effect over time can lead to substantial health implications. Anti radiation glasses remain crucial in protecting the eyes from potential long-term damage caused by scattered radiation, ensuring the well-being of those working in radiology and related fields.
PROFESSIONALS AT RISK: X-RAY EXPOSURE IN MEDICAL FIELDS
Professionals who are exposed to long-term/low-intensity x-rays include radiological technologists, interventional radiologists and cardiologists, fluoroscopy radiologists, as well as laboratory scientists, researchers, and technicians.
Among healthcare professionals who utilize x-ray equipment, interventional radiologists and cardiologists face the greatest risk. Their use of real-time x-ray imaging subjects them to prolonged exposure periods. Furthermore, these procedures necessitate close proximity to the x-ray target (the patient), resulting in increased exposure to scatter radiation. Consequently, the risk of developing eye cataracts due to cumulative low-level radiation exposure over the span of their careers is notably high for these professionals. Fluoroscopy radiologists also encounter a similarly elevated risk.
Laboratory scientists, researchers, and technicians who work with analytical x-ray equipment are also susceptible to low-level x-ray exposure. They face the risk of being exposed to leakage radiation from the x-ray tube housing as well as scatter radiation.
Cumulative low-level x-ray exposure poses an additional risk factor for the mentioned professionals. While several of the aforementioned risks can be mitigated, eliminating x-ray exposure is the simplest measure of all – by wearing radiation safety glasses while using x-ray equipment.
RADIATION SAFETY GLASSES: COMFORTABLE AND ESSENTIAL EYE PROTECTION
Even if your vision seems unaffected currently, it’s essential to be aware of the progressive and damaging effects that long-term x-ray exposure can have on your eyes’ lenses. It’s only a matter of time before your vision could be impacted. Considering that professions exposed to x-rays represent a minority, you face a higher risk compared to the general population, and the long-term risk is considerable for these professionals. Being proactive in protecting your eyes from x-ray exposure is crucial to safeguard your vision in the future.
Establishing the habit of wearing radiation safety glasses becomes easier when you choose glasses that provide comfort and ease of use. Fortunately, there is a wide range of options available at Phillips Safety, including various shapes, colors, and sizes to suit individual preferences. Moreover, prescription lead glasses are also readily accessible.