Is X Ray harmful and dangerous?

Medically reviewed: 24, January 2024

Read Time:4 Minute

Is it dangerous to do an X-ray?

Among people, fear of radiation radiation and radiating devices is widespread: from household appliances to X-rays.

Pregnant women are sometimes ready to abandon the X-ray in case of a fracture, fearing the consequences for the child, and nursing women in dental offices are warned about the need to take a break in breastfeeding for several hours or even days after the picture of the aching tooth. We are sorting out whether radiation is so terrible and whether it is worth to refuse examinations.

Is X Ray radiation dangerous?

Man-made environment, microwave ovens and cell phones. I’m afraid that they constantly irradiate me – this is how big city citizen might think. But moving to the village is unlikely to make sense. 80% of the radiation we receive from natural sources (from water, soil and from space), and not from household appliances.

To be afraid of the natural radiological background is not worth it: research of the late 20th century showed that living organisms even need to receive radiation dose in their habitat. If it is artificially reduced, this leads to a slowdown in the growth and development of living organisms.

As for household items: if they are serviceable, they should not be afraid either. For example, microwave ovens do not have an ionizing effect. In addition, to exclude the radiation of microwaves outside the furnace, it has different types of protection: the glass of the door is necessarily screened with a frequent metal mesh, the metal chamber of the furnace is closed by the front door.

How dangerous is X Ray?

Usually, for one procedure of radiography a person receives about 0.11 mSv. (millisievert), during fluorography – 0.08 mSv. In recent years, thanks to the appearance of digital devices, the dose has been reduced to 0.04 mSv.

For comparison: for an 8-hour flight from the US to Europe, the passenger receives an exposure dose of about 0.05 mSv. Thus, one flight back to the US is equivalent to two digital fluorography.

The highest dose of radiation among other diagnostic procedures is received by those who are subjected to computed tomography (CT) – about 4 mSv. At a time that is 30-40 times the dose of X-rays. So, do CT without evidence is not worth it.

To the development of radiation sickness the dose is thousands of times higher than from these procedures: 1 Sv. (sievert). And this should be a single dose, not for the whole year. About death from irradiation can be said with a single dose of 4.5 Sv.

How many times a year can I take an X-ray?

One of the main principles of safety: the benefit must exceed the possible harm.

There are no maximum doses in medicine: if the procedure is necessary and the health benefits will be greater than the harm, it should be carried out. However, there is a recommended level: according to sanitary rules and norms (entered into force in 2009), the average effective dose of radiation from medical diagnostic examinations per year should not exceed 1 mSv. This is approximately 10 radiographs or 20 digital fluorographs. It is important to note that this is not about preventive diagnosis, but about treatment.

In the United States, the effective dose of medical diagnostic procedures is significantly higher: about 3 mSv. from medical diagnostic procedures per year.

Is X Ray dangerous for pregnancy?

That depends on how necessary the procedure is. If a pregnant patient is suspected of a fractured arm, radiograph should be done.

According to the recommendations of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the radiation that the patient receives from radiography or CT is much lower than the level considered dangerous for the fetus: above 50 mGy (milligray). Therefore, to refuse radiography even when pregnant should not. You can discuss the risks with the doctor, he will help to determine if a procedure is needed.

In order not to get confused. In sievert (Sv), an equivalent dose of radiation is measured (characterizes the biological effect of irradiation of the organism with ionizing radiation), in the grains (Gy) – the absorbed dose (the amount of energy of ionizing radiation transferred to the substance). More details about the units can be found here.

Is it worth stopping breastfeeding after radiography?

According to the recommendations of the American Collegium of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, there is no risk during the lactation period from sources of ionizing radiation, and therefore it is not necessary for breastfeeding women to stop breastfeeding after X-ray diagnostics.

My child is suspected of pneumonia and is sent to X-ray. Is x-ray harmful to the baby?

According to studies of recent decades, the risks of stimulating the development of malignant cells in children increase with a dose of 50-100 mSv. This is more than 12 computer tomography and 500 chest radiographs, so parents should not give up the necessary diagnosis.