I just found out that I am pregnant. I work at a laser clinic that uses IPL and Diode lasers. I am wondering if I need to worry about radiation from these machines and if I need to purchase a lead vest?

We can reassure you that you do not need to worry about being pregnant while working with the equipment in the laser clinic. The wavelengths from IPL (intense pulsed light) or lasers used in cosmetics industry are typically in the 400-1200 nm range. In this range, the lasers cannot harm the fetus.

In general, radiation falls into two categories – ionizing radiation and non-ionizing radiation. Examples of ionizing radiation include X-rays, like you might get at a hospital or dentist office. X-rays can penetrate the human body – this is exactly why they are used to take pictures of bones or other organs inside the body. In order to shield against this type of radiation, patients will often wear lead vests to protect the parts of their body that are not being imaged, and the staff may stand behind leaded glass to protect themselves from scattered X-rays produced from the machine.

Lasers fall into the second category, which is non-ionizing radiation. While X-rays can penetrate the body, the lasers that you are working with cannot. This means that you do not have to wear any extra protective equipment while you are pregnant. The main hazard in working with lasers is the possibility of damaging your eyes or the surface of your skin. It’s sometimes helpful to think of the hazards of working with lasers the same as you would with the hazards of a knife. Unless the laser you are working with is physically capable of cutting through your skin (not just a burn), it will not cause any harm to anything under your skin.

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