Radiological Safety Training for Radiation-Producing (X-Ray) Devices
demonstrated that these unknown "x" rays, as he called them, traveled in straight lines,
penetrated some materials, and were stopped by denser materials. He continued
experiments with these "x" rays and eventually produced an X-ray picture of his wife's
hand showing the bones and her wedding ring. On January 1, 1896, Roentgen mailed
copies of this picture along with his report to fellow scientists.
By early February 1896, the first diagnostic X-ray in the United States was taken,
followed quickly by the first X-ray picture of a fetus in utero. By March of that year, the
first dental X-rays were taken. In that same month, French scientist Henri Becquerel was
looking for fluorescence effects from the sun, using uranium on a photographic plate. The
weather turned cloudy so he put the uranium and the photographic plate into a drawer.
When Becquerel developed the plates a few weeks later, he realized he had made a new
discovery. His student, Marie Curie, named it radioactivity.
ii. Discovery of Harmful Effects.
Because virtually no protective measures were used in those early days, it was not long
after the discovery of X-rays before people began to learn about their harmful effects. X-
ray workers were exposed to very large doses of radiation, and skin damage from that
exposure was observed and documented early in 1896. In March of that year, Thomas
Edison reported eye injuries from working with X-rays. By June, experimenters were
being cautioned not to get too close to X-ray tubes. By the end of that year, reports were
being circulated about cases of hair loss, reddened skin, skin sloughing off, and lesions.
Some X-ray workers lost fingers, and some eventually contracted cancer. By the early
1900s, the potential carcinogenic effect of X-ray exposure in humans had been reported.
Since that time, more than a billion dollars has been spent in this country alone on
research investigating the biological effects of ionizing radiation. National and
international agencies have formed to aid in the standardization of the uses of X-rays to
ensure safer practices.
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