The Radiation Post



What is Nuclear Power?

The process yielding nuclear power is called nuclear fission and was discovered by German physicist Otto Hahn and his assistant Fritz Strassmann back in 1938. This article is well-timed because the two discovered the energy generated by nuclear fission during a Christmas vacation.

Nuclear fission splits the atoms of heavy metals

The scientists discovered that splitting the atoms of heavy metals, specifically radioactive uranium, releases a tremendous amount of energy. This is the opposite process to nuclear fusion – the joining together of atoms – which occurs in suns and stars.

As it seems to be with many scientific discoveries, nuclear fission happened as an accident. It was a byproduct of experimenting with newly identified neutrons to explore atoms. In fact, the first incidences of nuclear fission were happening as the result of experiments a physicist named Enrico Fermi conductrf back in 1934.

At the time, Fermi theorized that the elements resulting from the neutron-bombarded uranium atoms were the first elements heavier than uranium. Another scientist, Ida Noddack proposed the byproducts were lighter, not heavier, but her input was largely ignored by scientific academics at the time. Instead, it turned out Fermi was creating elements that were lighter than uranium, including the remnants of various decay products.

Multiple scientists continued to bombard uranium and other heavy metals with neutrons, trying to learn as much as they could about atoms and this mysterious ocurrance. Otto, Fritz, and colleague Lise Meitner continued performing experiments and calculations, and finally figured out what was happening – that the uranium atoms were splitting in two, similar to the way a drop of water does when spliced in half.

As aps.org reports, “Frisch named the new nuclear process “fission” after learning that the term “binary fission” was used by biologists to describe cell division.”

Within months of their research being published (without any mention of Lise Meitner’s substantial contributions to the experimentation and theorizing), physicists and others realized this splitting of atoms had the potential to generate vast quantities of energy.

Unfortunately, the technology was first leveraged in the form of the widely disastrous and life-altering weapon known as the Atomic bomb. The controversial, secondary byproduct of their discovery is nuclear energy, which is now used to run nuclear power plants.

Nuclear power uses the micro-process of fission to generate steam power

As a source of “clean” energy, nuclear fission is used to produce mass quantities of steam that spins turbines, converting it the steam into electricity.

General Electric explains:

Nuclear power plants use low-enriched uranium fuel to produce electricity through a process called fission—the splitting of uranium atoms in a nuclear reactor. Uranium fuel consists of small, hard ceramic pellets that are packaged into long, vertical tubes. Bundles of this fuel are inserted into the reactor.

A single uranium pellet, slightly larger than a pencil eraser, contains the same energy as a ton of coal, 3 barrels of oil, or 17,000 cubic feet of natural gas. Each uranium fuel pellet provides up to five years of heat for power generation. And because uranium is one of the world’s most abundant metals, it can provide fuel for the world’s commercial nuclear plants for generations to come.

Currently, there are more than 450 nuclear reactors actively producing energy in 30 different countries. The United States has the most nuclear reactors, followed by France and Japan. In fact, in 2018, 80% of the energy used in France was generated by nuclear power.

Just as nuclear power generates tremendous heat, the debate about whether or not nuclear power is a clean source of energy continues to be debated. It is true that a perfectly designed, maintained, and functioning nuclear power plant is emissions-free.

The controversy is due to the reality that no system is perfect, and the effects of maintenance errors, malfunctions, meltdowns, or improper storage of radioactive materials have led to disastrous tragedies, like Fukushima and Chernobyl, where radiation levels will remain high for multiple generations to come.

Also, there is the reality that while nuclear power doesn’t require the burning or use of fossil fuels, uranium stores (like fossil fuels) are not renewable, and their mining, processing, handling, and disposal requires an extreme level of protection and safety protocols.

For the positives surrounding nuclear power, we direct you to NEI.com and GE.com, both of whom are proponents of nuclear power.

Protection from incidents related to nuclear power

The undeniable reality around nuclear power is that it is exceptionally clean – until it isn’t. Then, it is exceptionally harmful. For that reason, individuals who work in radioactive environments, and those who work or live in close proximity to nuclear power plants, are wise to remain informed, alert, and prepared for a potential disaster.

This includes:

The team here at Lancs Industries dedicates our lives and our career to providing radiation shielding and protection products, including customized radiation protection, to companies and radiation-vulnerable industries. Contact us to learn more about our products and services.



Radiation and Pregnancy

If you’re planning to get pregnant, or you’re currently pregnant, pay attention to your occupational and environmental surroundings. Infinite studies find negative correlations between radiation exposure and higher infertility rates, increased pregnancy risks, as well as higher rates of chromosomal and genetic abnormalities.

For more detailed information about radiation and its effects on pregnancy, visit The March of Dimes’ page on Radiation and Pregnancy. And, if you feel you or your partner at a higher-than-normal risk of radiation exposure, speak to your healthcare provider ASAP for customized, medical support.

The good news is that basic precautions go a long way to minimizing the detrimental impacts of unhealthy radiation exposure.

Radiation and Pregnancy

Know the Radiation Risks Before You Conceive

If you’re planning to get pregnant, odds are your doctor encourages you to prepare your body for a healthy pregnancy, considering lifestyle choices such as diet, exercise, and healthy sleep habits.

We’d encourage you to go a step further and evaluate if you or your partner are experiencing higher-than-healthy doses of radiation. Some things to consider to minimize daily risks of radiation exposure include:

Knowing the ins-and-outs of your workplace

We’ve put together a list of “radioactive jobs or careers” associated with radiation exposure. However, it’s worth asking your employer whether or not you are exposed at work. It could be that you work in the office, and the manufacturing floor uses radioactive products, in which case you need to know so you can avoid certain areas or protect yourself accordingly.

If you already know you work in a place housing or utilizing radioactive materials, speak to your manager or owner about your concerns. They may opt to move you into a different position, to order higher-level protective products for you, or to place you on a paid leave until you’ve safely given birth to your healthy baby.

Have your home tested for radon

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive material found in the earth. However, some regions are more radon-rich than others, and this odorless/colorless radioactive material can build up in homes or buildings that aren’t adequately ventilated or protected.

Have your home and water sources tested for radon to determine whether or not modifications should be made to bring radon levels down into the safe zone.

Make sure to inform health professionals

While lead blankets go a long way towards protecting you and your baby from radiation exposure during an x-ray or other medical procedures, don’t rely on them completely. Always let healthcare providers know you are trying to conceive or that you are pregnant. They may opt to take extra special measures – or skip those procedures altogether until a later date – to prevent you from harmful radiation exposure.

Inform airport security

Technically, the current security scanning devices used by TSA are considered safe. However, we recommend not taking your chances at all. When pregnant or accompanied by a baby or small child, TSA professionals will let you walk through the metal detectors instead. This may mean requiring an additional pat-down afterward, but these are always done in full view of the public (you can opt for a private screening if you prefer), and very respectfully, with a clear explanation of exactly what they’re doing.

Re-think how/where you use cell phones, laptops, and other Wi-Fi gadgets

Product manufacturers and the government consider cell phones, and other wi-fi gadgets to operate at safe levels when it comes to the electromagnetic (radioactive) energy levels they expose users to on a daily basis.

However, there have been some studies that link laptop and cellphone use to lower/poor sperm count and quality, and damage to DNA. So, the scientific world is continually debating the safety/harm ratios of these devices and the electromagnetic energy used to run them – especially as more Wi-Fi hotspots and cell phone towers populate the environment. We recommend using blue-tooth options whenever possible and keeping cell phones and Wi-Fi devices away from the groin and pelvic regions for extra protection.

Know the signs of radiation sickness

If you do work in a radioactive environment, pay close attention to physical signs and symptoms. Many of the same symptoms that affect women during pregnancy are also symptoms of radiation sickness. Keep in close touch with your healthcare provider if your “pregnancy symptoms” concern you or seem atypical to you.

Above All, Don’t Panic

While it’s true that radiation can be harmful to your reproductive system and/or a developing fetus, we also know that stress is harmful to you and your baby. Since stress is more common than radiation, we don’t want to cause any unnecessary alarm or fear.

Just pay attention to your environments and your daily habits, and take precautions as you see fit. Some types of daily doses of radiation are entirely normal, and humans have evolved to accommodate these.

If, however, you feel your exposure to radiation goes beyond that, it’s wise to take action. If a geographic or career change isn’t an option, contact us here at Lancs Industries. In addition to having a wealth of radiation shielding products available, we also specialize in custom orders. Our team can work with you to determine your level of exposure and the types of radiation protection that make the most sense for you.



Is Radiation Ever Good For You?

The majority of the time, we view ionizing forms of radiation as dangerous – and that’s a good premise to hold. In high doses, or in low exposure doses over an extended period of time, ionizing radiation damages DNA, which leads to defects, cancer, and other radiation-related illnesses.

The flip side of that story is medical radiation, which uses varying levels of radiation to treat cancer and other medical diagnoses, and radiation hormesis, a theory that states very low doses of ionizing radiation is not only good for you, the absence of any radiation may even be harmful. This article pertains solely to the concept of radiation hormesis, and how exposure to low doses of radiation may be helpful rather than harmful to human existence.

Is Radiation Ever Good For You

Radiation Hormesis Theory: Low-Dose Radiation May Be Good For You

NOTE: Please know that this concept is only a theory. The effects of low-level radiation are very difficult to observe and highly controversial. Science has yet to prove whether small doses of radiation are beneficial or not. Currently, there is no evidence for hormesis in humans and in the case of the National Research Council hormesis is outright rejected as a possibility.

The theory of radiation hormesis states, “low doses of ionizing radiation (within the region of and just above natural background levels) are beneficial, stimulating the activation of repair mechanisms that protect against disease…”

While evidence is clear that higher doses of radiation, or regular doses of radiation over long periods of time (think nuclear emergencies, the long term effects of the atomic bomb, or for employees regularly exposed to ionizing radiation in the workplace), it has difficult to prove whether the theory of radiation hormesis is legitimate.

As a company that manufactures radiation shielding products, and that has been dedicated to keeping people safe from harmful doses of radiation for nearly 50 years, we do not support any government policies that would diminish nuclear energy/weaponry regulations – or that would put humans at risk. What we can say is that there may be something to the idea that very low, everyday levels of radiation may be beneficial since they have been a regular part of human evolution.

In many ways, the radiation hormesis theory is similar to what we know about the human immune system. Just as the human immune system has evolved to respond and defend itself against bacterial, viral, and fungal invaders, the radiation hormesis theory states that the cells of humans and other living organisms may have inherent repair mechanisms that are the result of their constant, natural exposure to low-doses of ionizing radiation.

Thus, just as lack of exposure to bacteria leave an immune system weakened or ill-equipped, supporters of radiation hormesis theory propose that eliminating all sources of radiation exposure from humans could potentially diminish cellular capacity to repair and heal the body.

Perhaps normal daily doses of radiation are enough

What we mean by that is while we don’t support changes in public policy around known, harmful doses of radiation exposure, there is a common sense logic to the fact that humans and other living species on our planet may have evolved to build cellular defense/repair mechanisms in response to the daily doses of radiation we are exposed to all the time.

Visit our post, Radiation Doses in Our Daily Lives, to learn about these sources in more detail.

Some of the most common and natural sources of very low-grade, ionizing radiation include:

  • The sun
  • Drinking water
  • The soil (don’t forget that radiation occurs naturally via many of the earth’s elements)
  • Foods we eat since they pull radiation up from the soil beneath
  • Radon (a naturally occurring source of radiation that emerges from beneath the earth’s crust)
  • Cosmic rays that make their way into the earth’s atmosphere

Since these are a natural occurrence, the theory that our body’s cells created a system to monitor and repair any damage related to exposure to daily radiation sources seems logical. Again, this natural, evolutionary process would be similar to the way the immune system is able to respond to common bacterial or viral invasions.

Beware Higher-Levels of Radiation Doses

While the theory behind basic, radiation hormesis theory is logically sound – it has not been proven. And, the concept has gained the attention of the press lately as the Trump administration has been raising the question of whether radiation hormesis is true, and whether current legislation designed to prevent harmful radiation exposure leading to cancer, radiation poisoning or sickness, and other deficiencies should be reevaluated.

Those wary of the administration’s willingness to rethink federal standards for radiation doses received by the public and by workers cite the administration’s appointment of key radiation hormesis supporters to the Radiation Advisory Panel at the Environmental Protection Agency.

While we aren’t interested in using our company’s website or blog to promote political beliefs or opinions, we do think is is always important for the public to pay attention to any new policies proposed by the EPA’s Radiation Advisory Panel. Their findings, policies, and legal mandates are essential to American (and global!) health and safety with regards to radiation.

The Benefits of the 3 Principles of Radiation Protection Are Proven

Regardless of the EPAs fluctuating views on radiation exposure, and whether low doses are beneficial or not, the team here at Lancs Industries always adheres to the three principles of radiation protection:

  1. Limit the amount of time you’re exposed to radiation
  2. Limit radiation dosage
  3. Optimize your level of protection

These three principles will never lead you astray.

Interested in more ways to protect yourself from harmful doses of radiation in the workplace or at home? Contact us here at Lancs Industries.



What is Radon?

Radon is a naturally occurring element that off-gases from the earth’s crust, as well as part of the radioactive decay process of other radioactive elements. It’s also the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers, and smokers who live or work in a building with high radon levels experience much higher rates of lung cancer as well.

While it is dispersed effectively in an outdoor environment, radon is denser than air. That means it can be trapped inside homes, schools, businesses and other buildings if it seeps in from underground without being adequately ventilated back out again.

Note: Radon can also be found in drinking water. However, the majority of the risk in terms of human radon exposure and radiation sickness/cancer are linked to radon gas inhalation rather than ingestion.

Radon 101: Test, Take Action, and Re-Test

Here are things you should know about radon to prevent harmful exposure.

Some regions are more “radon rich” than others

While radon occurs everywhere and is considered a form of daily radiation exposure, some regions have higher levels of radon than others. You can CLICK HERE to view a map of the EPA’s Interactive Radon Zones By County.

However, most experts agree that homes, schools, and businesses test for radon annually – or bi-annually – just to make sure radon levels in the building are within the safe limits.

You can purchase an affordable home radon testing kit

You can purchase high-quality, home radon testing kits for $30 or less at your local home improvement store. To ensure you’re getting an accurate reading, the EPA recommends purchasing your kit through Kansas State University’s National Radon Program Services, where short term tests (2- 4-days) are just $15, and longer-term test kits (2 to 12-months) cost $25.

If cost is an issue, visit the EPAs pages regarding their various Radon Grant Programs.

Once testing is complete, you can return the test kit for analysis at no extra charge. If your home, school, or place of business has radon levels that exceed the EPA’s “safe limits” of 148 Bq/m3 (4 pCi/L) or less, you’ll be given instructions on how to proceed.

Hire a licensed, experienced service provider to mitigate radon issues

Mitigating unhealthy radon levels in a home requires a multi-step approach. Read the Consumer’s Guide to Radon Reduction, for detailed instructions and recommendations. Some of the steps required include:

  • Sealing foundation cracks, openings, and leaks
  • Installing a soil suction radon reduction system, which uses a pipe and fan system to vent radon out of the ground beneath your home and into the outdoors where it disperses naturally
  • Creating a gas-permeable layer beneath the slab or flooring

To be on the safe side, it’s best to hire a professional who does this type of work for a living to make sure the measures you take are professionally completed and effective.

The EPA provides two agencies you can contact to locate an experienced radon professional in your area.

National Radon Proficiency Program (NRPP)

Toll Free: (800) 269-4174 or (828) 890-4117
Fax: (828) 890-4161
Email: National Radon Proficiency Program (info@nrpp.info)

National Radon Safety Board (NRSB)
Toll Free: (866) 329-3474
Fax: (914) 345-1169
Email: National Radon Safety Board (info@NRSB.org)

Speak to your HVAC contractor about whole-home pressurization and ventilation

The better ventilated your home is, the less likely you are to experience elevated radon levels. Speak to your HVAC contractor about whole-home pressurization and ventilation. This keeps radon moving, and pushes it on out of your home should it makes its way into your home through a basement and/or foundation.

You can also ask about installing a heat recovery ventilator, or HRV, also called an air-to-air heat exchanger. This additional layer of ventilation is another safeguard to prevent radon gas from settling in your home.

Ultimately, education, testing, and preventative measures are the key to keeping radon at safe levels in your home. If you find out your home has high levels of radon, start the conversation with your neighborhood and local community and rally the troops to protect themselves. Odds are you aren’t the only household or building on the block that requires remediation. The simple act of spreading the word and low-cost testing can truly save lives.

The team here at Lancs Industries dedicates our work to protecting employees and the public from unnecessary radiation exposure. Contact us to learn more.



What is Radioactive Decay?

The majority of the elements in the periodic table are “stable,” and non-radioactive. Some, however, are unstable and experience a process called radioactive decay, during which they emanate ionizing radiation.

Unlike other forms of radiation, ionizing radiation is harmful to the human body because it alters our DNA. Longterm and/or overexposure to ionizing radiation can make you sick, cause intense burns, cause cancer, and has additional negative, long-term side effects.

Radioactive Decay Ultimately Makes Unstable Elements Stable

One definition of radioactive decay could be, “the emission of energy in the form of ionizing radiation.” But what is this energy – and how is it “energized?”

First, you have to understand a bit more about the periodic table. Most images of the periodic table are color-coded based on the ways individual elements are categorized into groups. One of the most basic of these groupins is:

  • Inert gases
  • Metals
  • Non-Metals

You could also divide the elements into two categories:

  • Stable
  • Unstable

Since the majority of the 118 elements found on the current periodic table are considered “stable,” it also means these elements’ nuclei have strong enough bonds to hold themselves permanently together. However, there are 15 elements found in nature that are considered unstable all on their own. Then there are other elements that become unstable via various chemical processes, and that adds about 22 more to the mix. Altogether, the current periodic table shows 37 elements as being radioactive.

The elements’ instability is caused by loose bonds in their nuclei, so the elements continue to “decay,” or lose some of their energy, to achieve a stable, tightly-bound nucleus.

When an element emits ionizing radiation in its efforts to become stable, it is referred to as a radionuclide.

As radionuclides decay, they continue transforming into radioactive variations of themselves, until they finally become stable (and safe again). This process of radioactive decay can happen in a single step, or it can take place over and over again for multiple steps. If radioactive decay occurs multiple times over, the process is referred to as a decay chain.

For example, here is a diagram depicting the decay chain for the very unstable, and radioactive radionuclide, U(ranium)-238, and all of the unstable radionuclides in the decay process until it becomes PB-(Lead)-206, where it’s stable again.

Protect Yourself From Radionuclides

If you work in a lab, weapons manufacturing plant, or anywhere that stable elements are intentionally altered to become radioactive, your company has a Radiation Safety Plan of some sort in place. Similarly, anyone working in another version of a radioactive career will be provided with the education and protective products required to keep them safe.

However, some of us are exposed to radioactive decay in our everyday lives, and this requires awareness and proactive action to keep yourself safe. Ultimately, radiation sickness occurs when you are exposed to large doses of radiation all at once, like a nuclear plant meltdown or nuclear weapons detonation. Or, it can happen via small doses of ionizing radiation over a long period of time. Read, Know Your Radiation Exposure Limits, to learn more about that.

Slow, long-term exposure is the most common way most of us would be affected by radioactive decay. For example, radon is one of those 15, previously mentioned elements that are radioactive and found in Mother Nature. It is part of the earth’s crust and depending on where you live, your home can have higher-than-normal levels of radon toxicity, which is a threat to your health.

In our post about radiation doses in our daily lives, we mentioned that radon, “Radon is a radioactive gas that can is sucked into your home through the soil via cracks, structural holes, and decaying structural materials. Without proper ventilation, this gas gets trapped. Radon may also be present in water that you swallow or dust particles that you inhale.”

You can Click Here to view the CDC’s Radon Zone Map. However, we recommend having your home tested to be on the safe side. The tests are inexpensive and you can “fix” it if levels are above the recommended guidelines of 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) or higher.

Being aware of where you live and its radioactive exposure from geographical, environmental, and industrial sources is the best thing you can do to protect yourself. Protection from harmful ionizing radiation via radioactive decay can be as simple as doing what it takes to “clean it up,” or as serious as moving elsewhere to minimize your family’s risk.

If you are concerned about radioactive decay and whether or not you’re at risk, visit the EPA’s website on Radiation Protection to learn more on the subject.

Lancs Industries is dedicated to creating effective and reasonably priced radiation shielding and containment products to increase the safety of workers in potentially hazardous environments. We’re working to create a safer and healthier world.



UV Radiation: What You Need to Know

There is no way to avoid sources of radiation if you live on planet earth. From the ultra-violet (UV) radiation we’re exposed to from the sun to cosmic, micro- and other forms of radiation – we encounter small and manageable radioactive doses as a part of daily life.

Fortunately, a little education and some basic, routine precautions will protect you from any harmful effects of UV radiation – including cancer – so you can enjoy the health benefits of the great outdoors without worry or stress.

What is UV Radiation?

While sun beds and tanning salons produce manufactured UV light, the large majority of UV radiation we encounter comes to us via sunlight. While they make up only a very small amount of the sun’s rays, UV rays do the most damage to unprotected human skin. In fact, their radiation exposure is considered ionizing, meaning it negatively alters our skin cells’ DNA.

UV rays are divided into three main categories:

  1. UVA Rays: Typically, UVA rays are the ones that contribute most to skin cell damage that leads to aging – i.e. wrinkles and minor sun spotting. Experts also think that intense exposure – like the larger-than-sun-power doses of UVA encountered at tanning beds – put you at higher risk for skin cancer.
  2. UVB Rays: These rays have more energy than UVA rays. The damage the skin cells via direct contact, so you can blame the UVBs the next time you get a nasty sunburn. Overtime, repeat skin cell damage affects the DNA, which damages the genes that guide healthy cell regeneration, and this causes skin cancer. For some, just a few bad sunburns as a child can lead to skin cancer as an adult.
  3. UVC Rays: These are a non-entity for us because although they have more energy than the other two, they are a source of cosmic radiation that is filtered from our planet’s surface by the atmosphere.

Most medical professionals agree that there is no such thing as a “safe” UV ray. Therefore, it’s your job to take adequate precautions.

Use the Principles of Radiation Protection to Prevent Skin Cancer

Because UV rays are a form of radiation, the Principles of Radiation Protection are just as relevant to humans outdoors on a sunny day as they are for anyone who works in a radioactive career. The three principles are:

  • It should do more good than harm. Your skin should only be exposed to UV rays when it will do more good than harm. For example, you’re getting outdoors for some exercise and having a good time with yourself, family and friends. On the flip side, if you want to take a nap, you’re better off getting out of the chaise lounge and heading indoors to a couch or bed to minimize exposure.
  • You should limit the amount of time you’re exposed. In most cases, peak sun exposure (UV radiation exposure) is from 10 a.m. to about 4 p.m. Therefore, it’s best to spend time outdoors before or after these peak hours, and to limit the amount of time you’re exposed to the UV rays if you are outdoors during those hours.
  • Try to limit your radiation dose. If you are spending a fair amount of time in the sun, do your best to limit exposure to reasonable doses. While a dosimeter isn’t necessary, you can notably limit your UV radiation dose by covering up with long sleeves and pants, wearing a hat with an ample brim and trying to stay in the shade. Sunscreen and sunglasses are also protective layers against radiation.

Don’t forget that most UV rays can go right through cloud layers, and water and snow can reflect and magnify their effect. Interestingly, cancer isn’t the only problem UV rays cause. Studies show that UV rays increase your risk of developing cataracts and other vision problems, and they can also suppress the immune system.

The team here at Lancs Industries wishes your family a safe, happy and UV protected summer so you minimize your chances of developing skin cancer.



What You Need to Know About Backscatter X-Rays and Safety

The good news for most Americans is that X-ray backscatter scanners are no longer used in airports, and therefore, they are no longer a source of daily radiation for regular travelers. Whether these devices were a threat – and how much of a risk they posed – has yet to be determined. In the meantime, the majority of these questionably risky devices have been removed and replaced with a different type of body scanning technology, one that doesn’t rely on ionizing radiation, called Advanced Image Technology (AIT).

The good news for Americans and other travelers making their way through the security scans at more than 200 airports around the nation, these AIT body scanners are not only safer (they use benign, millimeter wave scanning technology), they are also far less intrusive than their backscatter x-ray counterparts. You can Click Here to view a recent list of all U.S. airports using full-body scanners as part of their security checkpoints.

Is Backscatter X-Ray Technology Harmful?

According to an article by the science gurus at How Stuff Works, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) explains that whole-body scanning devices are essential for airport and flight security because they are able to detect weapons, explosives and other threats potential terrorists are trying to hide on or inside their bodies to activate later on.

After September 11, 2001, Americans and other travelers were understandably concerned about the safety and wellbeing of themselves, other passengers and the nation. As a result, the feds quickly engaged the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, and TSA hurried to install x-ray backscatter machines in the security areas of major airports. The idea was that these units would use “Automated Target Recognition” software to replace the rather accurate anatomical images with more cartoon-like representations that would show any areas of concern (obvious weapons, non-anatomical pieces/parts, etc.), so security personnel could follow-up accordingly.

Instead, the public went up in arms – largely due to the fact most Americans and international travelers felt these images were still a large violation of privacy. More importantly, many were concerned there simply wasn’t enough data to support the risk/benefits of the operation – most notably because like other forms of x-ray technology, backscatter x-ray machines exposed humans to low-doses of ionizing radiation.

As Wikipedia points out:
“…the energy being emitted by a backscatter X-ray is a type of ionizing radiation that breaks chemical bonds. Ionizing radiation is considered carcinogenic even in very small doses but at the doses used in airport scanners this effect is believed to be negligible for an individual. If one-million people were exposed to 520 scans in one year, one study estimated that roughly four additional cancers would occur due to the scanner, in contrast to the 600 additional cancers that would occur from the higher levels of radiation during flight.”

As the result of widespread findings like these, and reports, speeches and letters written by scientists and medical experts in the field, backscatter x-ray machines came quickly under suspicion. They were banned by the European Union in 2012, which furthered resistance here in the U.S. In May of 2013, the original versions of backscatter x-ray machines were removed. Some have been replaced by AIT or millimeter wave scanning devices, but the 25 largest US airports still rely on newer, “more improved,” backscatter x-ray technology for some of their security scanners.

Difference Between Backscatter X-Ray Scanners and Millimeter Wave Scanners

AIT or millimeter waver scanners work slightly differently from x-rays in that the waves work similarly to microwaves. Unlike x-rays, which penetrate and move through the entire human body, millimeter wave (mmw) scanners use waves that are similar to microwaves, a non-iodizing source or radiation. These microwaves waves are larger than those emitted by x-ray backscatter machines, so they are less able to negatively impact smaller human proteins and DNA.

Here is a description from the folks at How Stuff Works on the difference between x-ray and mmw technology:

Backscatter x-ray machines:

“Backscatter machines use rotating collimators to generate X-rays, which pass through a slit and strike a passenger standing inside. The X-rays penetrate clothing, bounce off the person’s skin and return to detectors mounted on the machine’s surface. The radiation also bounces off weapons, explosives or other threats concealed in clothing or lying against the skin. By sensing and analyzing this so-called backscatter, the machine is able to create an image of a person, as well as any organic or inorganic items carried on that person.”

Millimeter wave scanning machine (AIT):

“Millimeter wave scanners use small, disc-like transmitters to make an image. Each transmitter emits a pulse of energy, which travels as a wave to a person standing in the machine, passes through the person’s clothes, reflects off the person’s skin or concealed solid and liquid objects and then travels back, where the transmitter, now acting like a receiver, detects the signal. One disc would only scan a small portion of the test subject, so a single machine contains two stacks of discs connected by a bar that pivots around a central point. Because there are several transmitter/receiver discs stacked vertically and because these stacks rotate around the person, the device can form a complete picture, from head to toe and front to back.”

In terms of safety, experts agree that AIT scanners are preferred. However, in terms of efficacy, backscatter x-ray machines are less likely to provide false results than their AIT, millimeter wave scanning counterparts. Even so, we feel false reports – which result in TSA personnel performing more in-depth body scans – are worth the risk.

You Have the Right to Refuse Full-Body Scanning in the US

If you aren’t convinced, or prefer not to take any risk, you have the right to refuse full-body scans at airports. If you choose to opt-out, we recommend adding another 10 to 15 minutes to your airport security process to accommodate the extra steps required. When you get to the security area and are ready to line up for the scan, let the TSA personnel know you’re opting out.

They will divert you from the line-up of those entering the scanner, and will call for a same-gendered TSA employee to provide a personal scan. You’ll walk through the standard metal detector, after which they’ll perform a respectful pat down of your entire body. The process takes no more than five- to 10-minutes (once the assigned TSA employee is able to perform the check), and then you can grab your bags and be on your way.

The team here at Lancs Industries wishes you a safe and healthy summer travel season. While our radiation shielding products aren’t allowed to be worn in x-ray backscatter or millimeter wave scanning machines, they are recommended for use in most industrial applications where radiation exposure is a risk. Contact us to learn more.



Scatter Radiation Safety and Protection

All humans experience radiation exposure daily due to sunlight, radio, and microwaves, our smartphones, and even the foods we eat. Fortunately, the minimal amounts of radiation absorbed via these sources pose no real threat to our wellbeing.

For those who work in the diagnostic and therapeutic fields, or for patients whose medical conditions require frequent radiation exposure via diagnostic/treatment tools (such as x-rays or cancer treatment radiation), there are increased health and safety risks.

Scatter Radiation Safety and Protection

What is Scatter Radiation?

Scatter radiation is a secondary form of radiation. Just as sunlight can bounce off walls and reflective surfaces, radioactive particles “bounce” or scatter when they run into physical objects, including patients. Thus, medical professionals, like radiologists using x-ray technology, as well as the patient who receives the x-ray, and others are at risk of absorbing scatter radiation that bounces off the walls, ceilings, chairs – or even within or on the patient’s body. In fact, in most hospital and dental practice environments, the patients themselves are the largest source of scatter radiation since the x-ray is directed right at their body.

This is why you are covered with a lead blanket of some kind, and why the medical technicians or physicians walk away from the space, and behind some type of radiation-resistant barrier, while capturing the image or during radiation treatments. These radiation shielding products are designed to absorb the radiation, minimizing the scatter radiation you and s/he are exposed to.

As with other forms of radiation, the negative effects of scatter radiation depend wholly on:

  • The time of exposure
  • The distance from the radiation source
  • Shielding from radiation

Hence, applying the principles of radiation protection in any setting where scatter radiation is present goes a long way in keeping everyone healthy and safe.

“Lead Glasses Are Not Enough…”

In a March 2019 article posted in MedPage Today, Reporter Nicole Lou posted an article about a recent study’s findings that, “Lead glasses may be providing a false sense of security to the interventionist (x-ray or fluoroscopic radiation technician),” because scattered radiation comes at the human body from all directions. Thus, the protective lead glasses offer direct shielding from a particular angle but leaves the exposed angles of the eye area, cheeks, and forehead vulnerable.

This example is one of many we can share from the medical world and demonstrates how important it is that each department evaluate its structural footprint, the furnishings in the room, the safety program currently in place and whether or not changes or improvements are possible to enhance the safety of patients, clients, and staff.

A continuing and developing awareness of which parts of the body are covered or shielded, and what is left exposed, poses important considerations to those in the medical environment and other careers that place employees and team members in direct contact with radiation or radioactive materials.

Pair Comfort and Safety for Employees and Patients

Lead blankets are heavy, and that makes them both cumbersome and less comfortable for both employees and patients. So, while full lead blankets are the cost-savings norm, companies and medical administrators may find that spending a bit more on lighter, more eco-friendly options increases patient and employee satisfaction, without compromising safety. Examples include TL light (20% lighter than full lead and 100% recyclable) or Non-leaded options (25% lighter than full lead, flexible, and environmentally friendly).

For those working in the emerging field of C-Arm fluoroscopy, studies show that the best equipment for protecting attending physicians include:

  • Being as far from the source of radiation as physically possible while still getting the job done
  • Implementing
  • Lead or similar shielding aprons
  • Thyroid shields
  • Lead glasses
  • Lead barriers

These same, mindful and thorough tenets of protection of should be provided for the patient and any family, medical personnel, or staff in the vicinity.

Is your medical practice or place of business doing all it can to educate your employees about scatter radiation and providing the necessary means of radiation shielding and protection?

Lancs Industries has decades of radiation shielding experience, and we’re happy to work with you to make sure you have everything you need for ALARA compliance and to keep your company Safe with a capital “S.” Contact us to learn more about our radiation shielding products, or to design custom products or equipment that meet the demands of your workplace.



Radiation Doses in Our Daily Lives

The good news is that the majority of us live with minimal contact to non-ionizing (meaning non-harmful radiation) on a daily basis as the result of filtered radio waves, UV light and solar activity as well as cosmic radiation that is mostly filtered by the atmosphere.

Unfortunately, everything from medical x-rays and radiation-based cancer treatment, to some mining procedures, weapons testing/manufacturing and other man-made (or man intervened) practices put some of us at higher risk for harmful radiation exposure than others.

radiation doses in our daily lives.

What is the Difference Between Harmful & Non-Harmful Radiation Exposure?

The first thing to know is that not all radiation is harmful. Some forms of radiation, such as power lines, low-frequency microwaves and infrared waves are everday sources of radiation, but in their low-frequency forms, they are harmless. Even your cell phone puts you at risk for low-frequency radiation exposure.

Other forms of radiation, such as x-rays, atomic weapons energy, and many radioactive elements are considered ionizing. These are harmful because they actually irreversibly alter the DNA blueprints in your cells. Ionizing radiation sources are kind you want to be wary of, especially if you have a job or career that puts you at risk for elevated radiation exposure.

Most of us don’t have to worry about ionizing forms of radiation in our everyday lives because we don’t work in outer space or closer to the boundaries of earth’s atmosphere. However, nuclear events such as the Fukishima nuclear meltdown, following the 2011 tsunami, do place these everyday risks closer to home. And then, there are lots of things that expose us to low doses – that can all add up to higher doses if you aren’t paying attention.

Most radiation doses in our daily lives are too low to worry about

The good news is that most of the radiation doses we get in our daily lives are too low to worry about. We’ve already written about radioactive exposure from some everyday products – like microwaves and cell phones.

Here are some other common sources of radiation:

Fukishima fallout

When a nuclear meltdown or war occurs, the resulting radiation exposure is referred to as nuclear or radioactive fallout. In the case of Fukushima and our west coast, nuclear fallout is a reality. Everything from wine to seafood has shown elevated levels of radiation as a result of that disaster. However, experts agree that the effect on U.S. residents is still minimal and nothing to worry about, “The radiation from Japan is equivalent to an increase of 0.1 millirem (mrem) per year in background radiation, Arizona officials estimate; that’s just a fraction of the 620 mrem the average American gets each year.”

Drinking water

Radioactive materials are ultimately sourced from the earth. So, it makes sense that most drinking water has very low-traces of radioactivity.

In rural areas, this is the result of fresh water picking up natural radioactive isotopes from the rocks and soil it passes by in streams and rivers; in urban environments, radioactive contamination may be higher if industrial plants aren’t taking careful precautions, and bodies of water near nuclear facilities are also at risk. Fortunately, the FDA monitors these locations carefully.

Soil

Those who love to spend time outside, especially famers and gardeners, may be surprised to learn that the soil they work with exposes them to 35 mrems of radiation per year (again, just a wee fraction of the total, average dose of mrems we’re exposed to each year).

Fruits & veggies (and other foods)

The next time someone tells you to eat more fruits and veggies, tell them, “are you kidding? Most of them are radioactive!” It’s true; check out this list of radioactive foods from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Committee (NRC), which lists bananas, carrots, white potatoes, lima beans, Brazil nuts, red meat and even beer.

The good news is that outside of fallout or other potential contamination, these radioactive doses are the result of Mother Nature. As the NRC states, “All organic matter (both plant and animal) contains some small amount of radiation from radioactive potassium-40 (40K), radium-226 (226Ra), and other isotopes. In addition, all water on Earth contains small amounts of dissolved uranium and thorium. As a result, the average person receives an average internal dose of about 30 millirem of these materials per year from the food and water that we eat and drink…”

So, you really should eat those fruits and veggies after all.

Radon in your home

Radon is considered a “creeper” because – like carbon monoxide – it’s odorless. Radon is a radioactive gas that can is sucked into your home through the soil via cracks, structural holes and decaying structural materials. Without proper ventilation, this gas gets trapped. Radon may also be present in water that you swallow or dust particles that you inhale.

Most people don’t know that after smoking, radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. Some area of the countries have more radon than others. Click Here to view the CDC’s map of Radon Zones. Fortunately, there are things you can do to detect radon in your home, and to prevent your home from trapping radon gases. Read the CDC’s page, Radon in the Home, to learn more.

Being aware, staying on top of the news, and avoiding situations that put you at risk for elevated levels of radiation exposure are the best ways to keep you and your family safe. Interested in learning more about everyday protection from radiation exposure? Contact us here at Lancs and we can provide basic radiation protection for potential emergencies.



What Are the Three Principles of Radiation Protection

While the three principles of radiation protection grew largely out of the increased use of radioactive medical equipment, such as x-rays, CT and PET-CT scans, they are applicable to any career or industry in which employees or members of the public are exposed to radiation.

Multiple careers put employees at risk for radiation, such as industrial applications, mining, weapons manufacturing and the airline industry. However, radiation experts agree that, “…radiation doses from medical exposure are now the largest source of man-made radiation exposure.”

If you work in a career that poses a risk of radiation exposure, it’s essential that you learn and adhere to three, key principles.

The Three Principles of Radiation Protection

Also called the three principles of radiation safety, these three principles are a more specific implantation of a broader radiation safety paradigm referred to as ALARA – (As Low as Reasonably Achievable).

1. Justification

The first of these principles is that no human should be exposed to doses of radiation – in the workplace or otherwise – unless it is going to do more harm than good. This includes:

  • Any time a new source of radiation is discovered, used, or implemented
  • Any time a new activity arises that puts people at risk via their occupation (as is the case for pilots or astronauts)
  • The use of those sources are proven to be of reasonable benefit for the individual (as is the case where x-rays, CT and PET-CT equipment is used) or for society as a whole

It is also assumed that these sources or activities will be under continuous monitoring, studying, evaluation and analysis such that significant new findings could alter their course of progress or require the addition of new, revised and improved safety procedures and precautions.

1A. Time

For the medical industry, the first principle most employees will learn is Time of Exposure. Thus, we’re including it here as 1A. In every case of radiation exposure in the work place, the goal is to minimize the time an employee, patient or bystander is exposed to radiation. By minimizing the amount of time an individual is exposed to radiation, you simultaneously minimize the total radioactive dosage their bodies absorb.

2. Dose limitation

That’s a perfect segue to the second principle of radiation protection: limiting radiation dosage.

The good news about radiation is that it’s measurable via the assistance of a dosimeter. This allows Radiation Safety Officers and individual employees the ability to precisely monitor radiation exposure at any given time.

Ultimately, the goal is to keep doses to a minimum – and never, ever put yourself or others at risk for experiencing exposure limits that exceed federally governed occupational exposure levels.

Read, Know Your Radiation Exposure Limits, for more information on that topic.

Controlling and minimizing occupational radiation exposure is largely done via time constraints (setting specific time limitations on an employee’s ability to work in a certain space or in the field of a specific element or object) and by providing proper, industry recognized radiation protection and shielding.

3. Optimization of protection

Here, industry professionals are looking at how to create a comprehensive outlook on optimizing protection from exposure from every angle.

So, this principle looks at things from a more societal and global perspective, evaluating, “…the likelihood of incurring exposures, the number of people exposed, and the magnitude of their individual doses…” with the knowledge and practice that these should all be kept as low as reasonably achievable.

Need Help Keeping Your Company in Agreement With the 3 Principles of Radiation Protection?

Lancs Industries has helped companies and employees – just like yours – remain in alignment and compliance with current radiation protection policies. We design and manufacture radiation protection and shielding products of all types, and we’re also happy to create custom gear for virtually any application.

Contact us to learn more about what we do and to ensure your employees minimize their overall radiation risk via your company’s valuable safety policies.