Skip to Main Content

About Lead

Lead Bohr

Lead is a soft and malleable metal with a relatively low melting point. These properties make it easy to work and cast, and in combination with the relative ease of extracting lead metal from its ore, are responsible for its early use by human societies. The earliest lead artifacts, found in modern-day Turkey, date back to 6400 BCE. Lead was used most extensively in antiquity by Roman society, who produced the metal on an industrial scale as a byproduct of silver smelting and used it in the production of pipes to carry water. The metal was known to the Romans by the latin plumbum, from which both the element’s symbol on the periodic table and the english word “plumbing” are derived. The english “lead” is known to have Anglo Saxon roots, but there are conflicting accounts of its precise etymology.

Even ancient civilizations had some awareness of the toxicity of lead, as several Greek and Roman scholars noted stomach pains, paralysis, and other ailments in workers who dealt frequently with the metal. Despite this, lead was used in pipes, dishes, cosmetics, coins, and paints, and even intentionally added to foods in the form of lead acetate. Over time, further evidence of the element’s toxicity accumulated, but the severity of the risk still failed to be fully appreciated or adequately mitigated. After the fall of Roman civilization, lead continued to be used in pipes and artist pigments, and lead oxide was used to make leaded glass or lead crystal. Lead glass containers were often used to store alcoholic beverages for long periods, allowing lead to leach into the liquid. Lead was also a major component of type metal, the alloy used to produce the moveable type used in printing presses.

Lead compounds ubiquitous well into the twentieth century: lead pigments were commonly found in artists paints and house paint, tetraethyllead was used as an antiknock agent in automotive fuel, and lead solder was used to seal joints between pieces of pipe used to carry drinking water, until new regulations were effected starting in the 1970s. The effects of these applications linger even today--leaded fuel is still sold in developing nations and for some types of aircraft, and lead in plumbing and paint in older buildings is still often causes neurotoxicity in children, who are particularly susceptible to lead's health effects.

Today, lead continues to be used, though primarily in applications where the health and environmental risks are low, or where no suitable alternatives have yet been presented. More than half of all lead produced annually is used in lead-acid car batteries. Though using such toxic batteries is not ideal, alternatives are being researched and the majority of lead-acid batteries are recycled, keeping the majority of their lead content out of the waste stream. Lead is often used to line walls or storage containers to provide shielding from radiation, and in weights used in applications such as scuba diving and boat ballast, all applications that present relatively low environmental risk. Lead oxide is still used to produce high-refractive index glass and to produce glass solder. These glasses are mostly used for optical applications or in electronics, and therefore the concern of lead leaching into liquids meant for consumption is not significant. Finally, lead-containing soft solder is being phased out of use in electronics due to concerns about leaching following the disposal of the devices.

One final use of lead is in semiconductor devices. There are four binary lead semiconductors: lead iodide, lead sulfide, lead selenide, and lead telluride. Each of these is used in producing radiation detectors--lead iodide in detectors of high-energy radiation such as x-rays or gamma rays, and the remaining three in infrared detectors. Additionally, nanocrystals or “quantum dots” of these compounds, in addition to ternary lead semiconductors, are areas of active research. There is potential for lead-containing quantum dots to be used in solar cells or advanced display screens in the future.

The most commonly exploited lead mineral is galena, a naturally occurring form of lead sulfide. Lead ores are roasted to produce lead oxides, which are then reduced to metallic lead. Only about half of lead used annually comes from newly mined ores; the rest is acquired through recycling.

+ Open All
- Close All

Summary. Large quantities of lead, both the dioxide and the metal, are used in batteries, cable covering, plumbing, and ammunition. Lead is highly resistant to corrosion and can be used to contain corrosive liquids such as sulphuric acid. Lead is also extremely effective at absorbing sound and vibration. It is used as radiation shielding for X-ray equipment and nuclear reactors. Lead High Purity (99.999%) Lead Oxide (Pb3O4) PowderAlloys include solder, type metal, and various anti-friction metals and compounds. Lead oxides of Lead are used in producing fine "crystal glass" and "flint glass" of a high index of refraction for achromatic lenses. Lead ceramics and crystalline material have a wide range of industrial and optical applications, including infrared detection and imaging. Lead-based semiconductors, such as lead telluride, lead selenide and lead antimonide are finding application in photovoltaic (solar energy) cells and infrared detectors. White lead, the bHigh Purity (99.99999%) Lead (Pb) Sputtering Targetasic carbonate, sublimed white lead, chrome yellow, and other lead compounds are used in paints- although the use of lead in paints has been drastically curtailed in recent years to reduce health hazards. Lead is available as metal and compounds with purities from 99% to 99.9999% (ACS grade to ultra-high purity). Lead oxides are available in forms including powders and dense pellets for such uses as optical coating and thin film applications.Oxides tend to be insoluble. Lead fluorides are another insoluble form for uses in which oxygen is undesirable such as metallurgy, chemical and physical vapor deposition and in some optical coatings. Lead is also available in soluble forms including chlorides, nitrates and acetates. These compounds are manufactured as solutions at specified stoichiometries.

Lead Properties

Lead (Pb) atomic and molecular weight, atomic number and elemental symbolLead is a Block P, Group 14, Period 6 element. Lead Bohr Model The number of electrons in each of Lead's shells is 2, 8, 18, 32, 18, 4 and its electron configuration is [Xe] 4f14 5d10 6s2 6p2. The lead atom has a radius of and its Van der Waals radius is In its elemental form, CAS 7439-92-1, lead has a metallic gray appearance. Lead occurs naturally as a mixture of four stable isotopes: 204Pb (1.48%), 206Pb (23.6%), 207Pb (22.6%), and 208Pb Elemental Lead(52.3%). Lead is obtained mainly from galena (PbS) by a roasting process. Anglesite, cerussite, and minim are other common lead minerals. Lead has been used by human civilizations for all of recorded history. Lead information, including technical data, safety data, high purity properties, research, applications and other useful facts are discussed below. Scientific facts such as the atomic structure, ionization energy, abundance on earth, conductivity and thermal properties are also included.

Symbol: Pb
Atomic Number: 82
Atomic Weight: 207.2
Element Category: post-transition metal
Group, Period, Block: 14, 6, p
Color: bluish gray/ bluish white
Other Names: N/A
Melting Point: 327.46 °C
Boiling Point: 1749 °C
Density: 11.34 g/cm3
Liquid Density @ Melting Point: 10.66 g·cm3
Density @ 20°C: 11.34 g/cm3
Density of Solid: 11340 kg·m3
Specific Heat: N/A
Superconductivity Temperature: 7.2 [or -265.9 °C (-446.6 °F)] K
Triple Point: N/A
Critical Point: N/A
Heat of Fusion (kJ·mol-1): 5.121
Heat of Vaporization (kJ·mol-1): 177.8
Heat of Atomization (kJ·mol-1): 195.74
Thermal Conductivity: 35.3 W·m-1·K-1
Thermal Expansion: (25 °C) 28.9 µm·m-1·K-1
Electrical Resistivity: (20 °C) 208 nΩ·m
Tensile Strength: N/A
Molar Heat Capacity: 26.650 J·mol-1·K-1
Young's Modulus: 16 GPa
Shear Modulus: 5.6 GPa
Bulk Modulus: 46 GPa
Poisson Ratio: 0.44
Mohs Hardness: 1.5
Vickers Hardness: N/A
Brinell Hardness: 5.0 HB = 38.3 MPa
Speed of Sound: 1190 m·s-1
Pauling Electronegativity: 2.33
Sanderson Electronegativity: 2.29
Allred Rochow Electronegativity: 1.55
Mulliken-Jaffe Electronegativity: 2.41 (sp3 orbital)
Allen Electronegativity: N/A
Pauling Electropositivity: 1.67
Reflectivity (%): N/A
Refractive Index: N/A
Electrons: 82
Protons: 82
Neutrons: 125
Electron Configuration: [Xe] 4f14 5d10 6s2 6p2
Atomic Radius: 175 pm
Atomic Radius,
non-bonded (Å):
Covalent Radius: 146±5 pm
Covalent Radius (Å): 1.45
Van der Waals Radius: 202 pm
Oxidation States: 4, 3, 2, 1 (Amphoteric oxide)
Phase: Solid
Crystal Structure: face-centered cubic
Magnetic Ordering: diamagnetic
Electron Affinity (kJ·mol-1) 35.108
1st Ionization Energy: 715.60 kJ·mol-1
2nd Ionization Energy: 1450.40 kJ·mol-1
3rd Ionization Energy: 3081.50 kJ·mol-1
CAS Number: 7439-92-1
EC Number: 231-100-4
MDL Number: MFCD00134050
Beilstein Number: N/A
SMILES Identifier: [Pb]
InChI Identifier: InChI=1S/Pb
PubChem CID: 5352425
ChemSpider ID: 4509317
Earth - Total: 1.58 ppb
Mercury - Total: 0.018 ppb
Venus - Total:  1.66 ppb
Earth - Seawater (Oceans), ppb by weight: 0.03
Earth - Seawater (Oceans), ppb by atoms: 0.0009
Earth -  Crust (Crustal Rocks), ppb by weight: 10000
Earth -  Crust (Crustal Rocks), ppb by atoms: 1000
Sun - Total, ppb by weight: 10
Sun - Total, ppb by atoms: 0.07
Stream, ppb by weight: 3
Stream, ppb by atoms: 0.01
Meterorite (Carbonaceous), ppb by weight: 1400
Meterorite (Carbonaceous), ppb by atoms: 100
Typical Human Body, ppb by weight: 1700
Typical Human Body, ppb by atom: 50
Universe, ppb by weight: 10
Universe, ppb by atom: 0.06
Discovered By: N/A
Discovery Date: Ancient
First Isolation: N/A

Health, Safety & Transportation Information for Lead

Safety data for Lead metal forms, lead nanoparticles and lead compounds. For potential hazard information, toxicity, and road, sea and air transportation limitations, such as DOT Hazard Class, DOT Number, EU Number, NFPA Health rating and RTECS Class, please see the specific lead material or compound referenced in the Products tab. The below information applies to elemental (metallic) Lead.

Safety Data
Material Safety Data Sheet MSDS
Signal Word Danger
Hazard Statements H302-H332-H360Df-H373-H410
Hazard Codes T, N
Risk Codes 61-33-40-48/20-51/53-62
Safety Precautions 53-36/37-45
RTECS Number OF7525000
Transport Information N 3077 9/PG 3
WGK Germany nwg
Globally Harmonized System of
Classification and Labelling (GHS)
Exclamation Mark-Acute Toxicity Health Hazard Environment-Hazardous to the aquatic environment

Lead Isotopes

Lead (Pb) has four stable isotopes. Lead-204 is a primordial nuclide. Lead-206, Lead-207, and Lead-208 result from the uranium (or radium) series, the actinium series, and the thorium series decay chains respectively.

Nuclide Isotopic Mass Half-Life Mode of Decay Nuclear Spin Magnetic Moment Binding Energy (MeV) Natural Abundance
(% by atom)
178Pb 178.003830(26) 0.23(15) ms Unknown 0+ N/A 1346 -
179Pb 179.00215(21)# 3# ms Unknown 5/2-# N/A 1354.08 -
180Pb 179.997918(22) 4.5(11) ms Unknown 0+ N/A 1371.47 -
181Pb 180.99662(10) 45(20) ms α to 181Tl; β+ to 181Tl 5/2-# N/A 1379.55 -
182Pb 181.992672(15) 60(40) ms [55(+40-35) ms] α to 178Hg; β+ to 182Tl 0+ N/A 1387.63 -
183Pb 182.99187(3) 535(30) ms α to 179Hg; β+ to 183Tl (3/2-) N/A 1395.71 -
184Pb 183.988142(15) 490(25) ms α to 180Hg; β+ to 184Tl 0+ N/A 1413.11 -
185Pb 184.987610(17) 6.3(4) s α to 181Hg; β+ to 185Tl 3/2- N/A 1421.18 -
186Pb 185.984239(12) 4.82(3) s α to 182Hg; β+ to 186Tl 0+ N/A 1429.26 -
187Pb 186.983918(9) 15.2(3) s β+ to 187Tl; α to 183Hg (3/2-) N/A 1437.34 -
188Pb 187.980874(11) 25.5(1) s β+ to 188Tl; α to 184Hg 0+ N/A 1445.42 -
189Pb 188.98081(4) 51(3) s β+ to 189Tl (3/2-) N/A 1453.5 -
190Pb 189.978082(13) 71(1) s β+ to 190Tl; α to 186Hg 0+ N/A 1470.89 -
191Pb 190.97827(4) 1.33(8) min β+ to 191Tl; α to 187Hg (3/2-) N/A 1478.97 -
192Pb 191.975785(14) 3.5(1) min β+ to 192Tl; α to 188Hg 0+ N/A 1487.05 -
193Pb 192.97617(5) 5# min β+ to 193Tl (3/2-) N/A 1495.13 -
194Pb 193.974012(19) 12.0(5) min β+ to 194Tl; α to 190Hg 0+ N/A 1503.21 -
195Pb 194.974542(25) ~15 min β+ to 195Tl 3/2#- N/A 1511.29 -
196Pb 195.972774(15) 37(3) min β+ to 196Tl; α to 192Hg 0+ N/A 1519.37 -
197Pb 196.973431(6) 8.1(17) min β+ to 197Tl 3/2- N/A 1527.45 -
198Pb 197.972034(16) 2.4(1) h β+ to 198Tl 0+ N/A 1535.52 -
199Pb 198.972917(28) 90(10) min β+ to 199Tl 3/2- N/A 1543.6 -
200Pb 199.971827(12) 21.5(4) h EC to 200Tl 0+ N/A 1551.68 -
201Pb 200.972885(24) 9.33(3) h EC to 201Tl 5/2- 0.675 1559.76 -
202Pb 201.972159(9) 52.5(28)E+3 y EC to 202Tl; α to 198Hg 0+ N/A 1567.84 -
203Pb 202.973391(7) 51.873(9) h EC to 203Tl 5/2- 0.686 1575.92 -
204Pb 203.9730436(13) Observationally Stable - 0+ N/A 1584 1.4
205Pb 204.9744818(13) 15.3(7)E+6 y EC to 205Tl 5/2- 0.712 1592.07 -
206Pb 205.9744653(13) Observationally Stable - 0+ N/A 1600.15 24.1
207Pb 206.9758969(13) Observationally Stable - 1/2- 0.58219 1608.23 22.1
208Pb 207.9766521(13) Observationally Stable - 0+ N/A 1616.31 52.4
209Pb 208.9810901(19) 3.253(14) h β- to 209Bi 9/2+ N/A 1615.07 -
210Pb 209.9841885(16) 22.20(22) y β- to 210Bi; α to 206Hg 0+ N/A 1623.15 -
211Pb 210.9887370(29) 36.1(2) min β- to 211Bi 9/2+ -1.414 1631.23 -
212Pb 211.9918975(24) 10.64(1) h β- to 212Bi 0+ N/A 1629.99 -
213Pb 212.996581(8) 10.2(3) min β- to 213Bi (9/2+) N/A 1638.07 -
214Pb 213.9998054(26) 26.8(9) min β- to 214Bi 0+ N/A 1646.15 -
215Pb 215.00481(44)# 36(1) s Unknown 5/2+# N/A 1644.91 -
Lead (Pb) Elemental Symbol

Recent Research & Development for Lead

  • Shasha Feng, Dingquan Xiao, Jiagang Wu, Min Xiao, Jianguo Zhu, Lead-free (K, Na)NbO3–Bi0.5K0.5ZrO3–BaZrO3 ternary system: Microstructure and electrical properties, Journal of Alloys and Compounds, Volume 619, 15 January 2015
  • L. Largitte, P. Lodewyckx, Modeling the influence of the operating conditions upon the sorption rate and the yield in the adsorption of lead(II), Microporous and Mesoporous Materials, Volume 202, 15 January 2015
  • Eric C.Y. Tam, Martyn P. Coles, J. David Smith, J. Robin Fulton, The steric influence of β-diketiminato ligands on the coordination chemistry of lead(II), Polyhedron, Volume 85, 8 January 2015
  • Hamza Lidjici, Brahim Lagoun, Mokhtar Berrahal, Mohamed Rguitti, Med Amine Hentatti, Hamadi Khemakhem, XRD, Raman and electrical studies on the (1−x)(Na0.5Bi0.5)TiO3−xBaTiO3 lead free ceramics, Journal of Alloys and Compounds, Volume 618, 5 January 2015
  • K. Parmar, N.S. Negi, Influence of Na/Bi excess on structural, dielectric and multiferroic properties of lead free (Na0.5Bi0.5)0.99La0.01Ti0.988Fe0.012O3 ceramic, Journal of Alloys and Compounds, Volume 618, 5 January 2015
  • Muhammed M. Vargonen, Modeling the impact of paste additives and pellet geometry on paste utilization within lead acid batteries during low rate discharges, Journal of Power Sources, Volume 273, 1 January 2015
  • L. Chen, F. Ma, X.Y. Zhanga, Y.Q. Ju, H.B. Zhang, H.L. Ge, J.G. Wang, B. Zhou, Y.Y. Li, X.W. Xu, P. Luo, L. Yang, Y.B. Zhang, J.Y. Li, J.K. Xu, T.J. Liang, S.L. Wang, Y.W. Yang, L. Gu, Spallation yield of neutrons produced in thick lead target bombarded with 250 MeV protons, Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research Section B: Beam Interactions with Materials and Atoms, Volume 342, 1 January 2015
  • Ma Zhi-Chao, Xu Zhi-Mou, Wu Xing-Hui, Luo Chun-Ya, Peng Jing, Investigation of broad spectrum absorption of Lead zirconate titanate grating, Journal of Alloys and Compounds, Volume 617, 25 December 2014
  • Xiaoshi Lang, Dianlong Wang, Junsheng Zhu, Modified titanium foil's surface by high temperature carbon sintering method as the substrate for bipolar lead-acid battery, Journal of Power Sources, Volume 272, 25 December 2014
  • Wislei R. Osório, Ausdinir D. Bortolozo, Leandro C. Peixoto, Amauri Garcia, Mechanical performance and microstructure array of as-cast lead–silver and lead–bismuth alloys, Journal of Power Sources, Volume 271, 20 December 2014