Lead was considered to be the “gold standard” for years when it came to protecting living things from radiation. There were a lot of good reasons for this, it is an inexpensive substance, it can be processed with little difficulty and is one of the most effective radiation shielding materials. The downsides have been that with lead come some concerns for the environment an people’s health and safety. While it is easy to process the lead once it has been mined, doing the actual mining takes a real toll on the environment.
Lead is also has serious effects on people’s health. The reason lead is so dangerous is that, once inside the body, it will be absorbed preferentially over calcium, zinc and iron. It has no biological value but is very destructive. It is also very difficult to remove once it has gotten inside the body. Because of this, it has been banned from use in water pipes, paint and fuel. The effects of lead poisoning can be devastating to children. The use of lead in all industries is on the decline.
At the same time, there is a real need for radiation shielding materials because it is also very dangerous for human life. As a consequence, researchers have been working on alternative radiation shielding materials for years. These are the most common materials that are used for protecting people and animals from radiation.
The fist material that has to be mentioned is lead. While many industries and areas are banned from using lead, it still has uses. The use of the metal has been dated back as far as the Roman Empire, where it has now been faulted with ending that era. It is a useful material. It resists corrosion and is very malleable and, for a long time, seemed to be the perfect substance to be used for protection from radiation. When it has been combined with vinyl, it a great option to protect people from the radiation they receive when getting an x-ray. In terms of radiation shielding materials, it has been used in a host of industries and for a number of purposes. Now that the impact it has on health and the environmental problems caused when it is mined are the reasons alternative products have been developed and are being improved all of the time.
The next materials to be developed were composites. In these radiation shielding materials, lead is combined with other elements. The other substances that are mixed with the led are generally lighter but are still in the heavy metal category on the periodic table. The material that is produced in this composite manufacturing process is significantly lighter than the radiation shielding products that are made with just lead. They retain the radiation shielding properties that lead has. To test the radiation shielding properties, officials created a gas tank from this kind of material and buried it in Chicago. This was in 1963. More than 25 years later, officials dug it up only to find it in great shape. There was no corrosion, nor was there any leakage. Advanced composites were not developed to keep gas tanks but this does show these radiation shielding materials can survive a long time.
The most recent kind of radiation shielding materials have no lead in them. Composite materials that are made from polymer metals that are nontoxic remove all problems associated with the use of lead. These radiation shielding materials are typically available at much lower prices than other kinds of radiation protection. Despite this, these are also very effective at providing protection from radiation. The same methods that are used in composite engineering are employed when making these kinds of materials. There are a great number of applications for these radiation shielding materials. They can be developed to be used in a wide variety of conditions and for multiple purposes. They are also the most environmentally friendly of the three radiation shielding materials. They are incredibly durable. Composite molding techniques are the reasons this is so versatile.
There are a great many situations where people need to be protected from radiation. Advancements in radiation shielding materials are being made all of the time.