What is Lead? Origin / Meaning of the name Lead
The English name 'lead' is derived from the Celtic word 'luaide' meaning reddish, because of the colour of red lead, or lead tetroxide. Red lead was prepared by heating white lead to a very high temperature. It was used as a pigment in the production of used in painting and in particular for illuminating manuscripts.
Origin / Meaning of the symbol for Lead (Pb)
The symbol for lead 'Pb' originates from the word 'plumbum' which is the Latin name for lead. A Roman worker in lead was called a plumbarius, hence the name plumber which started to be used in the 19th century when lead water pipes became the principal work of the trade. Plumbism is the medical term for lead poisoning.
What is Lead? Periodic Table Group and Classification of the Lead Element
Elements can be classified based on their physical states (States of Matter) e.g. gas, solid or liquid. This element is a solid. Lead is classified in the 'Other Metals' section which can be located in groups 13, 14, and 15 of the Periodic Table. All of these elements are solid, have a relatively high density and are opaque. In a general overview of the element we can at first describe Lead as a solid. It is a bluish-white metallic element which is seldom found uncombined in nature, however, a compound of lead, called galena, is widely distributed. The chief producers of lead are the USA, Australia and Canada. Nearly 75% of all the elements in the Periodic Table are classified as metals which are detailed in the List of Metals.
What is Lead? The Properties of the Lead Element
Properties. Lead is a heavy metal which has a brilliant silvery luster on a freshly cut surface, but which soon tarnishes to a dull blue-gray color. It is soft, easily fused (melting at 327°), and quite malleable, but has little toughness or strength. For additional facts and information refer to Lead Properties.
Facts about the Discovery and History of the Lead Element
Lead was discovered was discovered in Ancient times and used by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and Chinese. Galena, lead sulfide, the ore it could easily be extracted from in open fires and was used widely for cosmetics by the Ancient Egyptians. Heavy and resistant to water, lead was used by the ancients making of weights and sinkers. The ancient Romans used lead for making water pipes, cooking utensils and storage vessels which were used in most major cities in the empire. Lead is one of the metals referred to as one of the 'Metals of Antiquity'. The ancient 'Metals of Antiquity' together with their approximate dates of discovery and use are Gold (6000BC), Copper (9000BC), Silver (4000BC), Lead (6400BC), Tin (3000BC), Iron (1500BC) and Mercury (1500BC).
What is Lead? Occurrence of the Lead Element
Lead is found in nature chiefly as the sulphide (PbS), called galena; to a much smaller extent it occurs as carbonate, sulphate, chromate, and in a few other forms.
Extracted chiefly from galena
Found in ore with Zinc, Silver and (most abundantly) Copper
Abundances of the element in different environments
% in Universe 1×10-6%
% in Sun 1×10-6%
% in Meteorites 0.00014%
% in Earth's Crust 0.00099%
% in Oceans 3×10-9%
% in Humans 0.00017%
Changes in the Uses of Lead - Damage to the environment
Due to the toxic nature of lead many products containing the element are no longer being manufactured because of the risk of lead poisoning and damage to the environment. Leaded gasoline (tetraethyl lead) was once believed to have great advantages in improving the performance of car engines. However, when it gets hot, tetraethyl lead breaks down in a car engine and elemental lead is formed which polluted the atmosphere. Lead paint and lead water and sewer pipes for plumbing are no longer being manufactured.
Uses of Lead
Lead continues to be used in the following:
Radiation shields - Shielding against radiation. In its metallic form, lead is used as a protective shielding against radiographs. In dentistry, lead acts as a protective shield against the radiographic beam and is found in the lead apron and walls of the surrounding room.
Lead Oxides and Compounds
Lead oxides: Lead forms a number of oxides, the most important of which are litharge, red lead (minium), and lead peroxide.
Compounds: lead acetate is used in insecticides and dyeing of cloth, lead fluoride is used to make lasers and
lead stearate is used to make soaps, waxes and paint.