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Chemical Elements

Lead

atomic number of lead, chelating agent, lead weight, symptoms of lead poisoning, lead compounds

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Lead, symbol Pb (Latin plumbum, a lead weight), dense, bluish-gray metallic element that was one of the first known metals. The atomic number of lead is 82; the element is in group 14 (or IVa) of the periodic table.

Lead was mentioned in the Old Testament. It was used by the Romans for making water pipes, soldered with an alloy of lead and tin.

Uses

Lead is used in enormous quantities in storage batteries and in sheathing electric cables. Large quantities are used in industry for lining pipes, tanks, and X-ray apparatus. Because of its high density and nuclear properties, lead is used extensively as protective shielding for radioactive material. Among numerous alloys containing a high percentage of lead are solder, type metal, and various bearing metals. A considerable amount of lead is consumed in the form of its compounds, particularly in paints and pigments.

Production

Principal sources of lead are found in Australia, the United States, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Serbia, and Russia. The United States consumes about half of the world production of lead, and it formerly produced about one-third of the world supply. Since World War II ended in 1945, the richest veins of galena have been exhausted, and U.S. output has been greatly reduced.

Lead Poisoning

Lead taken internally in any of its forms is highly toxic; the effects are usually felt after it has accumulated in the body over a period of time. The symptoms of lead poisoning are anemia, weakness, constipation, colic, palsy, and often a paralysis of the wrists and ankles. Flaking lead-based paints and toys made from lead compounds are considered serious hazards for children. Children are especially at hazard from lead, even at levels once thought safe. Lead can reduce intelligence, delay motor development, impair memory, and cause hearing problems and troubles in balance. In adults, one lead hazard at levels once thought safe is that of increased blood pressure. Present-day treatment of lead poisoning includes the administration of calcium disodium ethylenediaminetetraacidic acid, or EDTA, a chelating agent; lead is removed from the body by displacing the calcium in EDTA and forming a stable complex that is excreted in the urine.



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