What is Lead? | Types, Definition, Structure, Function & Facts

What is Lead?

Lead is the fifth element in the fourteenth column of the periodic table. It is classified as post-conversion metal, heavy metal and poor metal. The lead atom has 82 electrons and 82 protons with 4 valence electrons in the outermost shell.

Characteristics and Properties

Under normal conditions, lead is a soft, silvery, bluish-colored metal. It becomes darker gray after exposure to air. It is malleable (can be forged into a thin sheet) and malleable (can be drawn into a long thread). Lead is a poor conductor of electricity compared to other metals.

Lead is a very heavy element. It combines with other elements to form a variety of minerals, including galena (lead sulfide), anglesite (lead sulfate) and cerussite (lead carbonate).

Highlights of Lead:

Symbol Pb
Atomic Number 82
Atomic Weight 207.2
Classification Post-transition metal
Phase at Room Temperature Solid
Density 11.34 grams per cm cubed
Melting Point 327.5°C, 621.4°F
Boiling Point 1749°C, 3180°F
Discovered by Known about since ancient times

Where is it found on Earth?

Lead can be found in the earth’s crust in free form, but it is mainly found in ores along with other metals such as zinc, silver and copper. Although the lead content in the earth’s crust is not high, it is quite easy to extract and refine lead.

How is Lead used Today?

Much of the lead produced today is used in lead acid batteries. These batteries are used in automobiles due to their low cost and high energy.

Because lead is corrosion resistant, has a high density, and is relatively cheap, it is used in underwater applications such as weights for divers and ballasts for sailing ships.

Other uses for lead include roofing materials, electrolysis, statues, soldering electronics, and ammunition.

What is lead poisoning?

Too much lead in the body can cause lead poisoning. Lead can accumulate in the bones and soft tissues of the body. If it accumulates too much, it will damage the nervous system and can cause brain disorders. Lead is toxic to many organs in the body, including the heart, kidneys, and intestines. Too much lead can cause headaches, confusion, seizures, and even death.

Lead poisoning is especially dangerous in children. One of the main causes of lead poisoning is lead in paint. Today, lead paint is banned in the United States.

How was it discovered?

Humans have known metal lead since ancient times. Its low melting point and ductility make it easy to melt and use for various applications. The Romans were heavy users of lead, using it to make pipes that carried water to their cities.

Where did lead get its name?

Lead is an Anglo-Saxon word for a metal used and known since Antiquity. The symbol Pb comes from the Latin word for lead, “plumbum”. The Romans used lead to make pipes, which is the origin of the word “plumber”.


Lead occurs naturally in the form of four isotopes. The most common isotope is lead-208.

Interesting Facts about Lead

For many years, lead and tin were considered the same metals. Lead is called “plumbum nigrum” for black lead and pewter is called “plumbum album” for white lead.

More than one million tons of lead is recycled each year.

People have known about lead poisoning since ancient China and ancient Greece.

This element is part of the carbon group (column 14) of the periodic table.
Alchemists have associated it with the planet Saturn.

About 98% of all lead acid batteries are recycled.
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