Great care is taken by radiologic technologists to ensure their patients don’t receive excessive X-ray exposure. Yet many technologists are at risk of developing cataracts from long-term exposure to X-ray scatter. A rule of thumb is to stand at least 6 feet away from the patient during an X-ray exam. Some assume that X-ray exposure beyond 6 feet is negligible and that they need not bother with radiation safety glasses.
However, X-ray scatter from the patient still exists beyond this distance and has sufficient intensity to produce images of the bones in the hand and the thorax. Badge monitors may not indicate X-ray exposure at these distances because they lack sufficient sensitivity. Therefore, in spite of badge monitor indications, X-ray scatter at 6 feet and greater is passing through unprotected parts of your body including your eyes.
Is this low-level exposure harmful? Past research indicates that long-term risk of cataract formation is more of a function of cumulative exposure time and has less to do with X-ray exposure levels. Damage to the lens of the eye occurs slowly and is cumulative with repeated exposure. Over the course of a career, a person can get tens of thousands of exposures.
Assuming that your eyes are safe at 6 or more feet from the patient risks cataract formation. Years of low-level X-ray exposure may cause cataracts to develop at a younger age and progress more rapidly than what normally occurs in the rest of the population.
Not having eye problems right now doesn’t mean your eyes haven’t already sustained damage. The more years of eye exposure, the more cumulative damage you sustain. This is why you and your co-workers should always wear radiation safety glasses during X-ray exams. Remember that your eyes are already sustaining cumulative damage from years of UV exposure to normal sunlight, and X-ray scatter exposure adds to this and thus accelerates the process.
Why take the risk? VS Eyewear offers a large selection of radiation safety glasses. If you have any questions, please contact us.