We explain what lead is and the different properties of this chemical element. In addition, its uses and where it can be found.
What is lead?
It is a chemical element with the symbol Pb (from Latin plumbum ) and atomic number 82 in the Periodic Table . It is a very particular metallic element, given its enormous flexibility and chemical reaction capacity, of enormous use in human industries.
It was discovered early by mankind and long used in the manufacture of weapons, tools and artistic objects. Given its elastic properties, it was used in sheets for writing, as covering pipes and bathtubs, or in the manufacture of masks, medallions, etc.
In its common state, it is a solid, heavy, dense and bluish-gray metal , with various isotopes (stable and radioactive) and high levels of toxicity. The latter has questioned its use in various fields, such as plumbing, since this element is absorbed in various ways and causes specific neurotoxic, renal, cardiovascular, hematological and gastrointestinal damage.
It is a flexible element that melts very easily (melts at 327.4 ° C and also boils at 1725 ° C), whose usual valences are 2 and 4. It is partially resistant to sulfuric acid and hydrochloric acid , and is able to resist the passage of subatomic particles emitted by the radioactive material (which is why it is used to store these toxic materials).
It has great reactivity , which allows its use in various compounds, such as lead tetraethyl or lead silicates, or in various possible alloys .
Uses of lead
It is extremely useful in human industries. It was used extensively in the manufacture of pipes , ducts and other home spare parts, although for some time it has been replaced by other metals to avoid its consequences on human health. The same is done with containers for radioactive material and other hazardous chemicals, or even as a coating for electrical connections.
Other uses of lead contemplate it as an ingredient for the manufacture of ceramics, plastics and alloys for welding. The military armament ammunition and the contacts of the accumulators ( batteries ) are also manufactured with lead . It was used (no longer) as an anti-knock in gasoline and as an attenuation layer for sound waves, mechanical vibrations and ionizing radiation.
Where is the lead?
It is relatively abundant in the earth’s crust, although never in its elemental state. It is commonly found in the earth’s crust as lead sulfide , part of the mineral known as galena.
It is common to find lead in the form of phosphates (pyromorphite), carbonates (cerussite), sulfates (anglesite) and numerous oxides. It is also possible to find it as a consequence of the natural degradation of radioactive materials, so it is common to be associated with uranium (U) and thorium (Th).