What is lead? Atoms, elements, chemistry

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lead: gray shiny lump of metal

A lump of lead

As with all of the other heavier elements, all of the lead in the universe came originally from inside stars. 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.

Because lead has so much mass, people use it for weights and for bullets. Roman soldiers used lead even for slingshot 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, lead to protect the rest of your body from the radiation. But if you get too much lead inside you, it can be poisonous.

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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By | 2017-06-02T09:55:13+00:00 June 2nd, 2017|Chemistry|0 Comments
Cite this page: Carr, K.E. What is lead? Atoms, elements, chemistry. Quatr.us Study Guides, June 2, 2017. Web. December 12, 2017.

About the Author:

Karen Carr

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, Pinterest, or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.

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