Healthcare clinics and hospitals are full of tools and equipment that emit radiation. The modern-day x-ray is a boon to mankind, but it is also quite dangerous for the workers who work around radiation day in and day out. While there are adequate radiation and x-ray shielding policies in place, it’s easy to fall into a routine and become careless. High levels of stress, countless emergencies and innumerable life and death situations don’t help either.
Lead has traditionally been used in radiation shieldingmaterials, but it poses health problems and concerns of its own. And if anything, the Flint fiasco just showed us why we cannot afford to be careless when it comes to the dangers posed by lead.
A group of Polytechnic University researchers has now come up with a possible solution that certainly offers great benefits to all those involved in healthcare, presenting a solution that’s not only easy to wear and maintain, but more flexible and economical as well. The team combined polyurethane and tungsten polymer to create a shield that offers 40% more protection from x-rays. Apart from offering enhanced levels of radiation shielding, this garment is also known to be safer and 22% lighter than conventional shields.
Professor John XinHaozhong talks about the inspiration behind creating this protective gear. He discusses the Fukushima nuclear accident of 2011, touted as the largest disaster after Chernobyl, and states that the presence of nuclear plants close to Hong Kong made it essential to come up with better radiation shielding materials in order to protect people from radiation poisoning.
Researchers used new technologies to transform tungsten polymer into tiny particles and then mix it with polyurethane to create a brand new garment. Since polyurethane is extremely elastic, the vest even manages to offer protection despite being folded. Better yet, this vest only needs to be checked once every three years, making the annual testing of lead vests redundant, and leading to huge savings in radiation shielding budgets.
Fei Bin, an associate professor at the Polytechnic University Institute of Textiles and Clothing, discusses the benefits of this newly created shield. “The material is non-toxic and can be recycled and processed into protective clothing.”
Experts believe that this vest could not only work wonders in protecting patients needing x-rays, but also shield workers working in radiology departments around the world from the dangers of radiation. Commercial opportunities are still being explored though, and the first batch is expected to hit the markets within 6 – 12 months, should a company show interest in producing the vest commercially.