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Safe Use of Radiation Producing Equipment

Radiation producing equipment (RPE) is any piece of equipment in which X-rays are produced electrically. Such tools are the ones used in radiography (including dental), mammography, computed tomography, and fluoroscopy.

Electronically produced x-rays can also be used therapeutically in Radiation Oncology, in what is known as a Linear Accelerator, to treat various diseases. Radiation Oncology can also use these x-rays in the linear accelerator to produce another form of radiation called electrons. These electrons are also used in a therapeutic manner to treat diseases.

Regardless of the type or use of this radiation producing equipment, basic radiation safety still applies. First, the operator must be trained and certified to use the piece of RPE. Before working with RPE one must receive a dosimeter from the Radiation Safety Office so that they can monitored for their exposure throughout the course of working at the institution. After the credentials and monitoring are in place, the best way to protect one’s self is to follow the principles of time, distance, and shielding. Firstly, one must minimize their time around a piece of equipment is on. The less time you are around the equipment, the smaller your exposure will be.

The next step in protecting yourself is distance. The further you are away from a piece of equipment while it is on, the exposure you receive will lessen exponentially. Most of these pieces of equipment do not require the operator to be near it while it is on and should not be in the room while it is. However, there are certain procedures that require a physician, nurse, and/or technician to be close to a radiation beam while it is on. In this situation, the last of the three principles is the best option, shielding. If anyone is required to be within six feet of an X-ray machine while in use, they must wear shielding protection. This usually comes in the form of a lead apron that is worn over the midsection of the body to protect vital organ from exposure. Here, one must wear two dosimeters, one on the collar and the other on the midsection underneath the lead. This gives the ability to determine a good estimate of the exposure to the worker.  Leaded glasses are also recommended but not mandatory to protect the eyes. Wearing lead will not be necessary in Radiation Oncology because of the penetrating power of the higher energy radiation used.  Also, all x-ray and linear accelerator suites have shielding built in the walls to protect the workers as well as the public that could be surrounding the room. If you follow the principles of time, distance, and shielding while operating this equipment the operator will remain within the limits of acceptable exposure for a radiation worker and often times with no detectable exposure at all.