Lightweight Radiation Protection Apparel Offers Key Benefits to Clinicians

January 8, 2021
lightweight aprons

Since scientists first recognized the need for radiation protection from X-rays, lead has been the predominant material used. In healthcare facilities, lead aprons have been effective in protecting patients and medical personnel from unnecessary exposure to radiation. However, the weight of the lead can cause back and leg strain to clinicians during extended procedures. Fortunately, lighter weight protection products are now becoming widely available.

Lead—Long the Material of Choice in Radiation Protection

For over a century, the hazards from ionizing radiation have been recognized. Lead was selected early on as an effective shielding material due to its density. Its high atomic number also gives it the ability to block a substantial amount of X-ray radiation successfully. It also has the advantage of being readily available, highly malleable, and a relatively poor conductor of electricity. These attributes make it an excellent choice for use in personal shielding, such as lead aprons, thyroid shields, and lead gloves. On the downside, lead is a hazardous material and must be recycled when apparel is no longer functional. In addition, the sheer weight of lead makes it cumbersome and tiring to wear for long periods of time.

The Heavy Burden of Lead on the Body

According to a recent study by researchers at the Mayo Clinic, frequent use of lead aprons to protect medical professionals from radiation exposure is associated with increased musculoskeletal pain. In particular, the study found X-ray guided interventional procedures performed by cardiologists and radiologists have become increasingly complex.

As a result, these specialists may have to wear heavy protective lead aprons for extended periods—often four to five hours at a time. In the study of 1,543 cardiology and radiology employees, employees who were required to wear a lead apron reported more work-related pain and sought medical care for pain more often than those in the control group. The researchers found that pain was reported most often by technicians (62%) and nurses (60 %), followed by attending physicians (44%) and trainees (19%).

New Lead-Free Materials—Light as a Feather, Strong as Lead

While lead continues to be widely used in radiation protection aprons and related apparel, it’s not the only element that offers protection from the harmful effects of X-rays. Lead-free apparel is significantly lighter than its lead counterparts, translating to a two- to five-pound weight differential. While seemingly small, it’s a noticeable difference when professionals are on their feet for hours at a time. It’s also environmentally friendly and typically does not need to be recycled once its useful life is over.

Advances in lead-free materials such as AliMed's new FeatherLite Lead-Free weight option (available in Perfect Fit™Aprons only) feature innovative technology that allows for the same 0.5 mm Pb-equivalent level of protective antimony, but with less embedded plastic, making them 10% lighter than Ultralight Lead-Free options and 42% lighter than Standard Lead aprons—all without sacrificing protection and reducing potential injury caused by heavier aprons.

Featured Protection Aprons

AliMed Perfect Fit Aprons are fully customizable and available in 100+ colors and prints, standard or tailored-for-you sizing, 9 styles, and four weight options: FeatherLite Lead Free, Ultralight Lead Free, Lightweight Lead, and Standard Lead.

AliMed Grab 'n Go™ Aprons are ideal when you need an apron fast, offering same-day shipping for any in-stock apron and are available in four color-coded sizes, seven styles, and four weight options: Ultralight Lead Free, Lead Free, Lightweight Lead, and Standard Lead. 

Visit for our full line of Radiation Protection apparel.




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