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Radiological Protection with the Use of X-ray Glass

Radiological Protection with the Use of X-ray Glass

Date posted: November 26, 2015 // Glass

The hazards of working in a radiology department are now well known and intensive research has determined the level of exposure that workers are able to tolerate without lasting ill-effects. Control measures in this type of environment, therefore, tend to take two forms. These consist of taking steps to minimise a worker’s exposure to radiation, in combination with some means by which to monitor and record actual exposure.

In most situations where X-ray equipment is in use, specially formulated glass is the material of choice to provide the protective role wherever transparency is a requirement, while for personal protection and shielding of isotopes etc. lead-lined aprons and containers, and even entire lead-lined walls are used. The routine monitoring of an employee’s exposure to radiation, a process known as dosimetry, is achieved with the aid of a specially designed badge worn by each individual at risk. The badge consists of one or two layers of black and white photographic film, held in place by a holder that protects it from the effects of visible light, but not from penetrative radiation, including gamma rays and beta particles.

So how can a comparatively thin sheet of transparent vitreous material block radiation as effectively as a lead barrier? In fact, the explanation should not be too much of a surprise. In order for a sheet of glass to resist penetration by X-rays, a sufficient percentage of lead must be included in its composition. In this case, the metal is introduced into the basic substrate in the form of lead oxide, which has only a minimal effect on its transparency.

Why then choose lead in particular? The metal is chosen for its high density and high atomic number. The latter creates a strong positive charge within the molecule that, in turn, requires a large number of electrons in order to maintain its electrical neutrality. It is the high concentration of electrons that serves to scatter incoming rays, forming photons and thus exhausting much of their energy. At the same time, X-ray glass has very little effect on visible wavelengths and can therefore be used wherever the radiologist needs to retain a clear view of equipment and patients.

Chosen by many of South Africa’s radiology and radiotherapy departments for its exceptional performance characteristics, Schott RD 50 X-ray glass is composed of 65% lead oxide by weight, offering users the highest level of radiation protection together with a crystal-clear view. Conforming to the highest industry standards, this product meets both the DIN EN 61331-2 and IEC 61331-2 requirements. Schott RD 50 is available in South Africa from LIT Africa, where we also supply other specialised glass products.