Are There Safer Substitutes to Lead-Based Radiation Shielding Material?

  • Author: Canada Metal
  • Date: March 22, 2021

Lead remains the most commonly used material for radiation shielding because of its ease of application, cost-effectiveness, and superior ability to reduce gamma radiation. Industry-standard radiation shielding products use lead-based materials in many applications. With a deeper understanding of lead exposure’s risks, some industries are moving towards lead-free materials.

radiation shielding


Radiation use is widespread across many industries, including:

  • Agriculture
  • Law enforcement
  • Manufacturing
  • Medicine
  • Mining
  • Nuclear power
  • Power generation
  • Research
  • Security screening
  • Science
  • Space exploration

The demands for radiation shielding are consequently diverse and critical.


The Need for Radiation Protection

Lead-based products for radiation protection — such as lead aprons — are important tools for the personal protection of patients and physicians from X-ray radiation during medical operations. However, lead is highly toxic and can damage the environment and those exposed to it. Exposure to high radiation levels can result in microscopic damage to cells and tissues. Depending on the amount of exposure, conditions ranging from painful skin burns to advanced radiation sickness cases can also occur. Radiation exposure can also result in long-term health effects such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Dental clinics, hospitals, laboratories, nuclear facilities, and radioactive materials transportation all require radiation protection or nuclear shielding.


Types of Lead-Based Radiation Protection

When the following types of lead shieldings are used, radiation protection is assured:

  • Lead shielding
  • Lead bricks shielding
  • Lead lining
  • Lead containers
  • Lead cabinets

Some of the products used in radiation shielding include doors, mobile screens, partitions and walls, windows and window frames, and lead bricks. With their high molecular density, lead bricks are highly effective at protecting from x-rays, gamma rays, and other radiation forms. When radiation attempts to penetrate the lead brick’s non-porous surface, the energy is scattered and the electrons absorbed.

Lead bricks shielding provides a higher protection level than lead-lined drywall or plywood, making them ideal in constructing partitions, walls, and other protective barriers.


Alternatives to Lead Shielding

In some areas, polymers are being infused with tungsten and other metals to produce alternatives to lead-based shielding products. The main non-lead radiation protection option in sheet form uses polymers impregnated with metal. This form exploits the shielding properties of metal and the polymer’s flexibility.

The 2002 Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive — RoHS — originated in the European Union to restrict the use of certain hazardous materials found in electronic and electrical products. The substances banned under the EU RoHS are lead, cadmium, mercury, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, polybrominated biphenyls, and four different phthalates. In 2007, California adopted a narrower version of the RoHS, banning only lead, mercury, cadmium, and hexavalent chromium.

Regardless of how demanding or specialized your need, Canada Metal has the expertise and capabilities to fulfill your requirements for radiation protection, including lead bricks shielding and nuclear shielding. Visit the Canada Metal website today to learn more.

Also Read: Which Materials Help to Block Radiation?

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