X-ray machines are used in many industries, but the high levels of radiation they emit mean that shielding is necessary for anyone who might be exposed to them. Lead is used to line the walls, doors, windows and even ceilings and floors of x-ray rooms as it absorbs radiation. In this blog post we will discuss the lead shielding materials required in an x-ray room and where you can buy them.
How much lead is required to shield an x-ray room?
It's important to shield an x-ray room so that x-ray radiation won't penetrate to the other side of the walls, ceiling or floor. A physicist will determine how much lead is needed based on the occupancy of the surrounding rooms, the material composition of the walls, and how far away the tube or the x-ray system is from those different areas. They'll also consider whether or not you need shielding on the floor or ceiling as well as the size of the room. They'll then write a physicist's report that will detail the thickness of lead required for each part of the x-ray room.
How do you shield an x-ray room?
How to shield walls
When shielding an x-ray room the first area to look at is the walls. There are a few different options when it comes to lead-lining the walls of your x-ray room including lead-lined drywall, lead rolls and lead-lined panels.
Lead-lined drywall is similar to traditional drywall that you could pick up at an average hardware store, however there is lead glued within the drywall. These lead-lined drywall panels are pressure laminated with permanent adhesive to lead sheets. Depending on what the physicist requires it could be a variety of different lead weights (the thickness of the lead) and how much is required to minimize the amount of radiation. The more x-rays or procedures you're doing and the larger the generator the thicker the lead will need to be. This will be outlined in the physicist's report.
Lead rolls unlike drywall don’t come as a sheet, they come in rolls that you can use by rolling out and then gluing them onto a drywall surface. Lead rolls are easy to unroll, bend, cut, and shape without the need of special tools. They are a great option when you’re not able to locally source lead-lined drywall as they are less expensive to ship and deliver.
Lead-lined drywall is typically used for new construction whereas lead rolls are used where you have existing drywall that you can easily affix the lead rolls to and put drywall on top of it.
Lead-lined panels are panels that can fix together and be mounted on the wall. They're a bit more expensive but are a good option if you want to be able to remove the panels and take them from one location to another. It's worth considering when you do install lead-lined drywall or lead rolls in your x-ray room that you most likely won't remove them as you would have to damage the wall to take them out. Lead-lined panels are more expensive but you have the added ability to remove them.
Small lead discs are common and are used when mounting drywall. When you use a screw to mount the drywall, the lead disc goes on top of the screw so you get full coverage of lead within the wall.
How to shield doors
Lead-lining doors is another crucial part of shielding an x-ray room. Lead-lined doors are constructed with two solid core wood slabs - one on each side of a solid sheet of lead. The thickness of the lead in the center of the two slabs can range from 1/32” to 3/8", and will need to be the thickness required as outlined in the physicist’s report.
How to shield windows
Within the operator area there is a window to observe the patient while taking x-rays. Traditionally this will be a 12x12" window with a lead frame and lead glass. The 12x12 sized frame is the typical frame that we see in the majority of x-ray rooms, however there are windows available in larger sizes. You can also get custom sizes if you want to be able to have a window that is unique to your individual environment. It's important to remember the glass will need to be rated based on the physicist’s report.
Where can you buy these materials?
These materials are not commonly found in traditional hardware stores, instead they're stocked by specialty lead suppliers. While these suppliers are spread throughout the country, it's beneficial to find a local lead supplier. It’s important to source locally as lead is very heavy and is not easy to transport. You want to be able to find a lead supplier that is local or at least close to where your facility is to minimize shipping costs. If you can’t find a local supplier we have sources and can find which supplier will be the closest to your location.
Lead shielding is a necessary part of any x-ray room. It's important to protect the operator from radiation and also keep as much radiation in the room as possible so that it doesn't leak out into other areas where people are nearby. We've outlined some materials you will need for fitting out an x-ray room, if you're unsure about how to go about this, get in touch with us today for advice.