What is Lead? - Chemical Element
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What is Lead?

Lead

Lead is the heaviest atom that is still stable, with 82 protons and 125 neutrons, just a little heavier than mercury. Unlike many other metals, lead does not conduct electricity well.

All of the lead in the universe came originally from inside stars.

Because lead has so much mass, people use it for weights and for bullets. The large mass gives it a lot of momentum. Lead is also very soft and doesn't corrode (rust) very much, so people use it for building, for instance to seal joints in roofs so the water doesn't get in. And people use lead to shield you from radioactivity, because the radioactive particles can't get through the big lead atoms. That's what's inside the heavy aprons they put on you at the dentist before taking x-rays, to protect the rest of your body from the radiation.

Learn by Doing - Lead Fishing Weights
More about Lead and Lead Poisoning

Bibliography and Further Reading about Lead:

Lead
Atoms
Radioactivity
Chemistry
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter.
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