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Radiation shielding — experts share tips to get the most value

by Lauren Dubinsky, Senior Reporter | September 11, 2019
Business Affairs
From the September 2019 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine


But one thing every facility should always make sure to have is a good set of architectural drawings, according to Thomas Petrone, chief executive officer and chief medical physicist at Petrone Associates.

“These would have been created through a good working process between the owner, the equipment manufacturer, the technical staff who will utilize the equipment and the medical physicist,” he said. “The physicist must provide a good shielding requirements analysis before the shielding company can adequately bid the job.”

In the analysis, alternative shielding materials such as normal and high-density concrete can be considered for higher energy machines. On the lower-end side, such as mammography, gypsum board can be used in place of some lead.

To lead or not to lead?
For the diagnostic setting, lead is the shielding material of choice, but is it always the best choice? NELCO’s Miller definitely thinks so — citing that “it's the most cost-effective, easy to install, quickest to install, it's flexible and gives a finished product that the customers are happy with.”

The downside of lead is that it’s toxic and requires special manufacturing, handling, transportation and working restrictions. The WHO stated that lead negatively affects the development of the brain and nervous system in children, and may also lead to high blood pressure and kidney damage in adults.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation found that lead exposure was responsible for an estimated 540,000 deaths in 2016. It accounted for nearly 64 percent of the global burden of idiopathic developmental intellectual disability as well as 3 percent and 3.1 percent of the global burden of ischemic heart disease and stroke, respectively.

A few of the shielding companies have developed products and come up with strategies to mitigate the risk of lead exposure. MarShield sells lead bricks so that they can be painted to enclose the lead as well as rolling barriers, which encase lead in a metal frame.

NELCO has a comprehensive environmental health and safety program to address all of the safety concerns that their customers have with lead.

“We limit the amount of cutting and what we bring on to a job site,” said Miller. “We're not going to be cutting on a job site, because that can spread the lead throughout a building and we control the area where the lead is being installed so no one can access it.”

Lead is less expensive than other materials, like tungsten, but it’s still not considered to be inexpensive. To prevent waste, NELCO cuts lead with a knife instead of a saw so there is no dust.

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