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Lead Used for Radiation Shielding

Lead shielding may be necessary to reduce radiation exposure to laboratory personnel and the public. The following information is provided to ensure lead is handled and used in a safe manner.

NEVER dispose of lead in the regular trash or in radioactive or hazardous waste containers!

All disposal of lead bricks should be through EHS-Radiation Safety.

Whenever possible, lead shielding should be covered to reduce exposure. Methods of encapsulation include: painting, aluminum sheeting / foil, contact paper or plastic sheeting.

Lead dust can be created when lead is mechanically disturbed as in sanding or filing. Cutting the material with shears creates little dust. Lead that is significantly oxidized is different. The oxide layer is finely divided and could be dispersed, creating an inhalation hazard.

If you handle lead with bare hands, you will have lead on your hands. Ingestion is then possible if hands are not thoroughly washed after handling.

To reduce the chance of lead contamination:

  • Wear disposable gloves when handling lead.
  • Cloth aprons or lab coats should be worn when handling lead. This practice will help reduce contamination of clothing.
  • Wash your hands after handling lead.
  • Avoid machining, drilling, cutting lead.
  • NEVER leave lead lying around unless you are actively using it. Store lead pieces in a closed box labeled "Lead Shielding for Re-Use".
  • NEVER throw lead in the regular trash, place it in a sturdy box labeled "Waste Lead" and request a pick-up from EHS.

Lead should only be used to shield X and gamma radiation, not high energy Beta particle radiation. Interaction of high energy beta particles with lead shielding will produce X-rays. (Plexiglass should be used as primary shielding for high energy Betas particles).

NEVER lead bricks to shield I-125. It is overkill! A single sheet or several sheets of lead foil is adequate to shield the low energy X and gamma rays associated with I-125.

When building shield walls or enclosures with lead bricks the following requirements must be met:

  • Bench or structure on which shield is built must be able to withstand the weight of the lead.
  • The shield structure must be stable and built so that the wall or structure will not collapse or fall over.

Recommended thicknesses of Lead Shielding for Commonly Used Radionuclides

Radionuclide Lead Thickness to reduce mR/hr by 90% - cm (inches) Recommended Type
Cr-51 0.66 (0.23) ¼" vinyl coated lead sheet
Co-57 1.8 (0.7) Interlocking bricks
Cu-64 1.7 (0.67) Interlocking bricks
F-18 1.7 (0.67) Interlocking bricks
In-111 0.3 (0.12) ⅛" – ¼" vinyl coated lead sheet
I-125 0.007 (0.003) Lead foil, sheet, lead acrylic

Lead Shielding Examples

Flexible lead foil is ideal for wrapping around tubes, bottles or containers that require shielding from I-125. Cuts and forms easily into almost any shape required.

Lead Vinyl Sheets are 10% lighter in weight than lead rubber with the same lead equivalent. The sheets feature uniform density throughout with an abrasion resistant, non-absorbing, smooth surface on both sides.

Vinyl coated Lead Sheets have a thick vinyl coating for easier and safer handling.

Lead Acrylic contains 30% lead by weight added as an organolead salt during the manufacturing process. This produces a lightly tinted lead acrylic copolymer with high optical transparency. The excellent clarity of this material allows unobstructed viewing yet provides effective radiation shielding.

Interlocking Lead Bricks make it easy to erect, modify and relocate protective walls and caves of any size. Their V-shaped edges (A) eliminate the danger of leakage, common to all straight-edged bricks. Interlocking Lead Bricks create sturdy walls for a safe, protective enclosure.

Lead/polycarbonate laminate bricks are 2" x 4" x 8" and provide 0.5" lead shielding and make it easy to erect, modify and relocate protective walls and caves of any kind.


The following list of providers is not inclusive and should not be taken as an endorsement of the following vendors.

Research Products International
Biodex Medical Systems
Lab Logic
Mayco Industries, Inc.
Radiation Shielding, Inc.

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