In a private office setting, where the radiographer consistently stands behind a well-leaded operator’s booth while making all exposures, he/she cannot possibly receive exposures that register on a personnel dosimetry badge. Poorly-constructed facilities, built to barely meet the state and federal regulations, combined with haphazard radiation protection procedures, can in fact result in a radiation exposure reading on a badge. Private office facilities which are well constructed and well operated consistently receive negative reports (zero exposure), when they utilize a dosimetry service, so the service is not needed in the typical private office setting. In contrast to the private office setting, however, certain procedures in radiology labs and hospitals do result in exposure to technicians, and dosimetry badges are therefore vital to monitor and limit exposure in those settings.
Can a pregnant technologist continue to perform her x-ray duties? The answer is a qualified “yes.” This assumes that:
- The facility is well leaded and has been inspected for safety.
- The operator’s booth is fully leaded, and has been inspected to ensure that the lead permits no measurable passage of x-ray.
- The pregnant technologist consistently wears a full leaded apron while she is performing her radiographic duties.
- The pregnant technologist does not spend other time in a room adjacent to the radiographic facility, which is not protected by an intervening lead barrier.
If a very small amount of x-ray can be measured passing into the leaded operator’s booth, the pregnant tech can still carry out her radiographer’s duties if she consistently wears a full lead apron. A lead apron should not be needed in a well-leaded operator’s booth, and this would be an advantage, because the lead aprons are hot and heavy for the tech to wear.
It must be remembered, however, that many facilities are not fully leaded. Often, minimal lead shielding is utilized which meets legal requirements but which does not fully prevent the transmission of scatter radiation. The amount of legally-required shielding is variable from office to office and depends on the exposure settings of the radiographs which are produced, the radiographic workload during the week, distance from other personnel work areas, the types of use expected from surrounding areas, and the construction materials of the office. This evaluation would have to be made by a qualified radiation control specialist because the doctor or technologist would likely have no way of knowing the precise but varying rules for each given situation, or of measuring whether or not there was any transmission of scatter radiation.
Generally, x-ray facilities that were constructed within roughly the past 20 years or so are well shielded. Older facilities may not be shielded as well. Sometimes dosimetry readings have been made in the routine inspection that is conducted every two years. First, consult your inspection report to see if there is any information there. If there is still a question in any individual case, an x-ray inspector from the Washington Department of Health can be contacted to come and make dosimetry readings in the lead operator’s booth. They are willing to do this to ensure that a pregnant tech is safe.