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Lead (Pb)

Lead is one of the oldest metals known to humans.

It is soft and easily workable. Its widespread occurrence, ease of extraction and desirable properties have made it very useful to humans since at least 5000 BC. Because Lead is easily shaped and resistant to corrosion, it has been used in the past for items such as pipes and roofing. The Roman baths at Bath were lined with lead and fed by lead pipes from hot mineral springs. It was used in water pipes until it was discovered to be damaging to health. 


Lead is usually found in ore which also contains zinc, silver and commonly copper and is extracted as a co-product of these metals. More than half of the lead consumed today comes from recycling, rather than mining. Some form of Lead is found in more than 60 minerals. The most common ore of lead is galena, lead sulphide (PbS), this has been mined in Cornwall since the late 13th century and again in the 15th and 16th centuries. In the mid 19th century about 10% of the UK’s lead came from Cornwall.


Lead is used today in batteries, roofing and radiation shielding. Lead is even in glass for TV and computer screens for radiation protection.


Data Panel: Lead ore: Galena

PbS Lead Sulphate

Dark grey sometimes with a bluish tinge
Crystal system
Crystal habit
Metallic to dull
Lead grey
Other characteristics


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