Lead Aprons Are a Lead Exposure Hazard

Kevin M. Burns, Jamie M. Shoag, Sukhraj S. Kahlon, Patrick J. Parsons, Polly E. Bijur, Benjamin H. Taragin, Morri Markowitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Purpose To determine whether lead-containing shields have lead dust on the external surface. Methods Institutional review board approval was obtained for this descriptive study of a convenience sample of 172 shields. Each shield was tested for external lead dust via a qualitative rapid on-site test and a laboratory-based quantitative dust wipe analysis, flame atomic absorption spectrometry (FAAS). The χ2 test was used to test the association with age, type of shield, lead sheet thickness, storage method, and visual and radiographic appearance. Results Sixty-three percent (95% confidence interval [CI]: 56%-70%) of the shields had detectable surface lead by FAAS and 50% (95% CI: 43%-57%) by the qualitative method. Lead dust by FAAS ranged from undetectable to 998 μg/ft2. The quantitative detection of lead was significantly associated with the following: (1) visual appearance of the shield (1 = best, 3 = worst): 88% of shields that scored 3 had detectable dust lead; (2) type of shield: a greater proportion of the pediatric patient, full-body, and thyroid shields were positive than vests and skirts; (3) use of a hanger for storage: 27% of shields on a hanger were positive versus 67% not on hangers. Radiographic determination of shield intactness, thickness of interior lead sheets, and age of shield were unrelated to presence of surface dust lead. Conclusions Sixty-three percent of shields had detectable surface lead that was associated with visual appearance, type of shield, and storage method. Lead-containing shields are a newly identified, potentially widespread source of lead exposure in the health industry.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)641-647
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the American College of Radiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 May 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Occupational safety
  • patient safety
  • radiation protection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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