What Is Gamma Radiation?
Gamma radiation is high-energy, short-wavelength, electromagnetic radiation emitted from the nucleus of an atom and frequently accompanied by the emission of alpha particles and beta particles. Gamma rays are similar to x-rays but are highly penetrating.
Gamma radiation can penetrate most materials, including paper, plastic, and steel. Due to its high penetration power, gamma radiation can impact the entire body, and it is considered an external hazard. High exposure can cause direct acute effects through damage to cells. Low levels of exposure carry the risk of cancer.
Gamma rays are commonly associated with cobalt-60, cesium-137, technetium-99m, and americium-241. Each of those has common applications in everyday items. Cobalt-60, for example, is used in the sterilization of medical equipment, while technetium-99m is used for medical diagnostic studies, and americium-241 is used in household smoke detectors and fluid leveling, density, and thickness gauges for thin materials.
Why X-ray Shielding Is Important and Required in X-ray and Imaging Rooms
X-ray shielding is important and required in X-ray and imaging rooms to shelter patients and operators from the risks of radiation exposure. X-rays are classified as a carcinogen and, while they can be used beneficially, they cause destruction of cells. A small but significant percentage of cancers are caused by CT scans, and this is expected to rise as the use of CT scans in medical procedures increases. While some X-rays, such as chest X-rays, offer exposure levels only slightly higher than background levels, others, such as abdomen CTs, are equivalent to years of natural background radiation.
Shielding is a key radiation protection principle employed in X-ray and imaging rooms. Radiation protection ensures adequate protection for staff and the general public in X-ray and imaging rooms. A proper protection scenario is based on technical characteristics and requirements, as well as the dose emitted, the distance between each person and the radiation source, and the duration of the exposure.
Shielding and room design are critical components at healthcare facilities that perform diagnostic and interventional radiology.
A radiation shielding report is required for facilities constructing or modifying diagnostic imaging rooms. Radiation shielding is required to protect individuals both in the control booth operating the equipment and outside of the room. Exposure to X-rays can do more than cause cancer: X-ray exposure can also cause vomiting, bleeding, hair loss, and skin loss. The risk from X-rays comes from the radiation they produce, which harms living tissues. While the risk is relatively small, it increases with cumulative exposure, and studies have shown that radiation exposure is increasing for most countries.
Many common building materials, such as concrete block, filled concrete block, and poured concrete, can reduce X-rays, but often the reduction is not substantial enough and additional lead shielding is required. The most common shielding materials are lead-lined sheets of plywood or drywall, leaded glass, and lead-lined doors and door frames.
In the United States, a number of federal agencies issue guidance and rules on radiation exposure and exposure mitigation policies, and these policies have changed as X-ray image acquisition methods have changed.
Radiation shielded building solutions include lead lined walls, radiation shielded doors, x-ray leaded glass, lead lined window frames, and more.