Since x-rays are a form of ionizing radiation, precautions must always be followed whenever they are employed. If the imaging studies are going to be conducted at any type of medical imaging facility within the United States, strict radiation protection practices should already be in place. The American College of Radiology (ACR) has established guidelines regarding practices and procedures that minimize radiation exposure to patients, staff, and the public while ensuring that the required diagnostic image quality is not compromised (Brusin 2007). In addition, individual states may have their own radiation protection requirements maintained either by the State Department of Health or a State Radiation Control Commission (Newell et al. 1998a).

A major component of any radiation protection program includes monitoring the radiation exposure of any individual who might be exposed during a study. Although wearing one of the several types of devices does not, in itself, provide any protection from radiation exposure, it generates valuable information. Radiographers—the individuals who operate the equipment—are required to wear at least one monitoring device that is "read" on a routine basis, usually monthly or bimonthly. Those reports are posted and the record follows the individual even if he or she changes employers. Readings also serve as a mechanism to evaluate the radiation protection practices developed for a specific procedure. If high readings were reported, either the equipment operator was careless and requires additional education or the procedure needs to be redesigned.

Radiography in an anthropological, archaeological, or forensic field setting would necessitate a radiation protection plan that would include radiation monitoring as a component of the project proposal. At the very least, an individual familiar with paleoimaging and consulting with a radiation or medical physicist should participate in the proposal development. A major medical imaging facility could serve as a source for the physicist and also information regarding acquisition and the proper use of radiation-monitoring devices (Newell et al. 1998b).

It is beyond the scope of this book to consider more than just the very basic properties of x-rays and the biological effects of radiation. A thorough discussion of these and other related topics may be found in Bushberg et al. (2002a) and Bushong (2008a). Therefore, this section will review the basic properties of x-rays, the biological effects of radiation, the principles of radiation protection pertinent to a field imaging setting and, finally, discuss several plans for establishing a "radiation-safe" field facility.

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