Radiation Blog

Bilayer Lead for Radiation Protection

03.21.21 | Sunday | Nofit Amir

Lead garments have not evolved much over the last decade. Heavy and cumbersome, most lead protection comes in the form of an apron draped over the user’s front. This single-layer of standard lead protection neglects the rest of the user’s body, leaving sensitive tissues vulnerable to radiation exposure.

radiation protection

The Need for Radiation Protection

The dosage of X-rays administered to patients for the imaging of bones, during diagnostics, and while undergoing surgical procedures is extremely low and unlikely to cause any short-term side effects. However, studies show that when medical staff experiences prolonged exposure to radiation particles, it can result in mutations at the cellular level, which, in turn, develops into cancer, injuries, or sickness. As a preventative measure, lead shielding, worn by medical staff, prevents harmful scatter-radiation from penetrating the body.

What is Bilayer Lead?

As suggested by its name, this protective garment offers a double-layer shielding of lead protection. Bilayer lead shielding ensures that both the front and back of the user are adequately protected. Bilayers used in radiation protection consist of two different layers of radiation-attenuating materials utilized as a unique layer. This cocoon of protection prevents radiation scatter and direct exposure as low as reasonably achievable.

How Bilayer Lead Works

Historically, lead has been the go-to material for radiation protection. Its high density and high atomic number are effective at stopping gamma rays and X-rays from penetrating surfaces. By creating layers of protection, bilayer lead doubles this effort. A minimum of .25 mm of lead protection is required to combat radiation effectively. The StemRad MD garment provides a .50 mm lead equivalent on both front and sides, and a 1.0 mm lead equivalent in the front overlap area.

The Weight of Lead Protection

Despite regulations that mandate wearing suitable protection when using X-rays, there is poor compliance with radiation safety guidelines due to ergonomic discomfort from wearing heavy lead aprons. By strategically layering lead garments, vulnerable areas of the body receive adequate protection without adding unnecessary weight. The StemRad MD provides double the minimum recommended protection of .25 mm with .50 mm on the front and sides of the body and quadrupole in the front overlap area with 1.0 mm. Rather than draping the body in 1.0 mm of lead all over, this weight distribution lessens the burden of the shielding to the user while providing extra protection where it is needed most.

A Weightless Solution for Radiation Protection

Standard lead-lined radiation protection gear is heavy and difficult to wear for long periods, and bilayer lead protection can weigh in at 40 lbs and still cause strain to the body. Now, physicians are able to move freely as the StemRad MD propriety exoskeleton removes the weight of the lead from the user while still providing superior radiation protection.

While providing the best in radiation protection, StemRad has altered the advanced technology of bilayer lead shielding to be more ergonomically suitable for medical teams. Allowing maximum comfort and precision for physicians, the StemRad MD exoskeleton removes up to 100 percent of the weight from the user’s body.

Learn more about the StemRad MD Exoskeletal System for radiation protection.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does wearing lead protect from radiation?

Lead is one of the most effective materials for stopping X-ray radiation. Wearing lead in the presence of such radiation can provide significant protection.

How thick should the lead be to protect from radiation?

The effectiveness of lead in shielding against X-ray radiation increases with its thickness. For radiation energy levels typically used in fluoroscopy procedures (~ 100 keV), the amount of radiation is reduced by around 50% for every 0.27 mm of lead. Generally, a minimum of 0.25 mm of lead is needed to provide effective shielding.

Why is lead better at shielding radiation?

Lead has one of the best X-ray attenuation coefficients of any element, making it an ideal shielding material.

Why is lead used to protect from radiation?

In addition to lead's excellent shielding properties, it is a soft material, lending flexibility to aprons and improving wearer comfort.

What thickness of lead is required for a secondary barrier?

The bilayer lead solution provides an additional 0.50 mm thickness of lead protection.

Does lead block alpha radiation?

Like most other elements, lead can block alpha radiation at low enough energies. However, lead is not particularly suited to block charged particle radiation, like alpha particles. Instead, the most effective materials for blocking alpha particles will have a high density of hydrogen, such as HDPE which is used in the AstroRad vest.

Can gamma rays penetrate lead?

Whether a gamma ray can penetrate lead depends on a probabilistic function. The proportion of gamma rays that penetrate lead decreases exponentially as the thickness of the lead is increased. For example, for gamma rays with an energy of 100 keV, 50% will penetrate lead shielding of 0.27 mm thickness. For each additional 0.27 mm of lead added, the proportion of penetrating gamma rays will decrease by a further 50%.

How much lead is needed to protect from solar radiation?

While lead can provide some shielding for solar charged particle radiation, it is not particularly suited to do so. Instead, the most effective materials for blocking charged particles, like those emitted from the Sun, will have a high density of hydrogen, such as HDPE which is used in the AstroRad vest.

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