Answer to Question #10831 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"

Category: Medical and Dental Patient Issues

The following question was answered by an expert in the appropriate field:


My husband is currently in his second year as a radiology technician, and is planning a long career working with radiation. I am wondering about the retention of radiation in common materials that he will be wearing daily, such as rubber in shoes or his white-gold wedding ring. Are there some materials that retain less radiation then others? (Should he switch to a ceramic or wood or tungsten wedding band, or switch shoes out every two months, or choose natural rubber over plastics—or the reverse?) I haven't been able to find any information on the retention of radiation in materials consistently exposed to cast-off radiation, can you help me? I would rather start reducing continued exposure from retained radiation—if there is any—right at the beginning of his career.


There is no retention of radiation in common materials from medical x rays. X rays are similar to radio waves, microwaves, and light. All of these waves look like a sine wave:

The difference between light and x rays is the wavelength—the distance between peaks. So, if light looks like this:

Then x rays look like this:

And microwaves look like this:

(Actually, the x ray would be even more squished and the microwave would be even more stretched out.) All of these are examples of electromagnetic radiation.  
Of course you know that when common materials are exposed to light, they do not become light sources. Likewise, common materials exposed to x rays do not become x ray sources. There are a few materials that when exposed to light, store the energy and reemit light later, such as glow-in-the-dark watch dials and numbers. But there are no materials that store x-ray energy and reemit x rays later.  
This is good news on several fronts; not only do you not need to worry about your husband bringing radiation home with him, and you also do not have to worry about increasing your clothing budget.  
Kent Lambert, CHP

Ask the Experts is posting answers using only SI (the International System of Units) in accordance with international practice. To convert these to traditional units we have prepared a conversion table. You can also view a diagram to help put the radiation information presented in this question and answer in perspective. Explanations of radiation terms can be found here.
Answer posted on 20 November 2013. The information posted on this web page is intended as general reference information only. Specific facts and circumstances may affect the applicability of concepts, materials, and information described herein. The information provided is not a substitute for professional advice and should not be relied upon in the absence of such professional advice. To the best of our knowledge, answers are correct at the time they are posted. Be advised that over time, requirements could change, new data could be made available, and Internet links could change, affecting the correctness of the answers. Answers are the professional opinions of the expert responding to each question; they do not necessarily represent the position of the Health Physics Society.