Whether we love our career or see our job as simply a means to an end, every employment field comes with associated risks. So important is it to identify and protect ourselves from these risks, that the U.S. government enacted the Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1970. The act created an agency called the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, most commonly known as OSHA. Their primary mission is “to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance”.
However, despite the existence of OSHA, workers can and will continue to be exposed to occupational safety hazards. Even when an organization or business is 100% compliant with OSHA, there are some hazards for which OSHA gives no specific instructions. Does this mean though that workers must go unprotected from these hazards? Absolutely not. Many particularly conscientious employers, aware of specific dangers, go above and beyond what’s required by law in order to protect their employees. Also, workers themselves are generally free to purchase and use their own personal safety equipment. Many are increasingly seeing the importance of using lead glasses in radiology. Consider some helpful facts.
Although radiology is used to detect and cure diseases, repeated exposure to x-ray and other radiation puts people at risk of tissue damage. While patients are generally exposed to radiation only a few times in their lifetime, usually for a diagnostic procedure, x-ray technologists face a much higher risk of tissue damage from radiation because of frequent exposure. Since the eyes are particularly delicate parts of our bodies, we want to be sure to protect them, especially if we work in a radiology department. The absence of pain while performing diagnostic tests or administering therapeutic radiation doesn’t mean that there is no damage being done. Just as x-rays, and other types of radiation are invisible to the naked eye, the damage being done goes undetected at first.
There are two types of radiation, ionizing and non-ionizing. Non-ionizing radiation is needed for life, although dangerous with excessive exposure. This includes visible light, microwaves, radio waves, and thermal radiation. Ionizing radiation is the type that threatens the safety of health care workers eyes’. Basically, ionizing radiation has enough energy to affect the stability of atoms, and cause tissue damage.
The diagnostic use of x-rays and fluoroscopic imaging has been around for centuries and are still some of the most useful, cost-effective ways of viewing the inside of the human body. Although x-ray tubes are aimed at the patient and measures are taken to reduce scatter, it is inevitable that there will be some interception and subsequent scatter radiation. This scatter is the biggest source of exposure to technologists. Since it cannot be prevented, protection is needed. Often, lead vests are worn or the technologists stand behind a lead wall when they don’t need to be physically involved in the actual exam. However, it’s less common to see eye protection worn. It’s urgent that this changes.
The most common condition that results from repeated exposure of the eyes to the ionizing radiation used in medical procedures, is cataracts. A cataract is essentially a cloudy lens of the eye, a lens that should be clear in order to function properly. Cataracts usually develop slowly and don’t affect vision in their early stages. In fact, it’s possible for a cataract to first affect such a small part of the lens that you don’t immediately realize that you’ve suffered vision loss! Some of the symptoms you might eventually notice are:
- vision that seems cloudy or dim
- difficulty seeing at night
- the appearance of “halos” around lights
- increasing sensitivity to light or glare
- the sense that colors are faded
- frequent need to update contact lens or eyeglasses prescription
Vision problems caused by cataracts and other issues can completely affect a person’s life. Most cataracts are caused by aging, medical conditions, trauma, or use of certain medications. Some of these causes are unpreventable. And, thankfully, cataracts can be successfully treated with surgery. However, exposure of the eyes to ionizing radiation, by x-ray technologists, can and should be avoided, thereby preventing cataracts caused by this type of exposure, and the subsequent need for surgery. We use sunglasses to protect our eyes from exposure to the sun. If we are a radiation technologist, isn’t it equally, if not more, important, to protect our precious eyes from ionizing radiation?
At Philips, we have many choices in radiation eyewear. The lenses are a standard 0.75mm lead equivalency Schott SF-6 HT. The frames come in a variety of styles, giving you many options in fashion and comfort. We have economy frames, wraparounds, metal frames, goggles, face shields, and more. If you already wear prescription eyeglasses, you can still benefit from radiation eyewear. We have fitover frames which can be worn comfortably over most eyeglasses. There’s also the option to have the protective eyewear lenses made according to the wearer’s prescription. We have a full line of frames made by Wiley X, a global leader in the research and development of protective eyewear for the military and law enforcement. All of our products meet the need for comfort and durability.
The risk of eye damage from radiation exposure increases with each incident. Don’t wait any longer. Contact us today for more information on how you can protect yourself or your employees from risks associated with radiology, and other occupational hazards.