Valahia University

The possible toxic effects of lead

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Courtesy of Valahia University

Lead is a chemical element in the periodic table that has the symbol Pb (Latin: plumbum) and atomic number 82. A soft, heavy, toxic and malleable lead is bluish white when freshly cut but tarnishes to dull gray when exposed to air, very dense metal which is very soft, highly malleable, ductile, and a relatively poor conductor of electricity. It is odourless. It is highly resistant to corrosion but can dissolve very slowly in soft water.

Lead is used in building construction, lead-acid batteries, bullets and shot, and is part of solder, pewter, and fusible alloys. Lead has the highest atomic number of all stable elements - although the next element, bismuth, has a half life so long it can be considered stable. Like mercury, another heavy metal, lead is a potent neurotoxin which accumulates in soft tissues and bone over time.

Lead is a poisonous metal that can damage nervous connections (especially in young children) and cause blood and brain disorders. Long term exposure to lead or its salts (especially soluble salts or the strong oxidant PbO2) can cause nephropathy, and colic-like abdominal pains.

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