For "PB" or "pb" as an abbreviation, see PB.
82 thalliumleadbismuth


Periodic Table - Extended Periodic Table
Name, Symbol, Number lead, Pb, 82
Chemical series poor metals
Group, Period, Block 14, 6, p
Appearance bluish white
Atomic mass 207.2(1) g/mol
Electron configuration [Xe] 4f14 5d10 6s2 6p2
Electrons per shell 2, 8, 18, 32, 18, 4
Physical properties
Phase solid
Density (near r.t.) 11.34 g·cm−3
Liquid density at m.p. 10.66 g·cm−3
Melting point 600.61 K
(327.46 °C, 621.43 °F)
Boiling point 2022 K
(1749 °C, 3180 °F)
Heat of fusion 4.77 kJ·mol−1
Heat of vaporization 179.5 kJ·mol−1
Heat capacity (25 °C) 26.650 J·mol−1·K−1
Vapor pressure
P/Pa 1 10 100 1 k 10 k 100 k
at T/K 978 1088 1229 1412 1660 2027
Atomic properties
Crystal structure cubic face centered
Oxidation states 4, 2
(Amphoteric oxide)
Electronegativity 2.33 (Pauling scale)
Ionization energies
1st: 715.6 kJ·mol−1
2nd: 1450.5 kJ·mol−1
3rd: 3081.5 kJ·mol−1
Atomic radius 180 pm
Atomic radius (calc.) 154 pm
Covalent radius 147 pm
Van der Waals radius 202 pm
Magnetic ordering diamagnetic
Electrical resistivity (20 °C) 208 nΩ·m
Thermal conductivity (300 K) 35.3 W·m−1·K−1
Thermal expansion (25 °C) 28.9 µm·m−1·K−1
Speed of sound (thin rod) (r.t.) (annealed)
1190  m·s−1
Young's modulus 16 GPa
Shear modulus 5.6 GPa
Bulk modulus 46 GPa
Poisson ratio 0.44
Mohs hardness 1.5
Brinell hardness 38.3 MPa
CAS registry number 7439-92-1
Selected isotopes
Main article: Isotopes of lead
iso NA half-life DM DE (MeV) DP
204Pb 1.4% >1.4×1017 y Alpha 2.186 200Hg
205Pb syn 1.53×107 y Epsilon 0.051 205Tl
206Pb 24.1% Pb is stable with 124 neutrons
207Pb 22.1% Pb is stable with 125 neutrons
208Pb 52.4% Pb is stable with 126 neutrons
210Pb trace 22.3 y Alpha 3.792 206Hg
Beta 0.064 210Bi

Lead (IPA: /ˈlɛd/) 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 poor metal, lead is bluish white when freshly cut but tarnishes to dull gray when exposed to air. 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.



Notable characteristics

Lead has a dull luster and is a dense, ductile, very soft, highly malleable, bluish-white metal that has poor electrical conductivity. This true metal is highly resistant to corrosion. Because of this property, it is used to contain corrosive liquids (e.g. sulfuric acid). Lead can be toughened by adding a small amount of antimony or other metals to it. Lead is the only metal in which there is zero Thomson effect. Lead is also poisonous. All lead, except 204Pb, is the end product of a complex radioactive decay (see isotopes of lead below).




Former applications

Contrary to popular belief, pencil 'leads' have never been made from lead. The term comes from the Roman stylus, called the penicillus, which was made of lead.[5] The pencil originated as a wrapped graphite writing tool, a particular type of graphite used being named plumbago (lit. acts like lead).



Lead has been used by humans for at least 7000 years, because it is widespread, easy to extract and easy to work with. It is highly malleable and ductile as well as easy to smelt. In the early bronze age lead was used with antimony and arsenic. Lead was mentioned in the Book of Exodus. Alchemists thought that lead was the oldest metal and associated it with the planet Saturn. Lead pipes that bear the insignia of Roman emperors are still in service and many Roman "pigs" (ingots) of lead figure in Derbyshire lead mining history and in the history of the industry in other English centres. Lead's symbol Pb is an abbreviation of its Latin name plumbum. The English word "plumbing" also derives from this Latin root.

However, it is also toxic, and lead poisoning was recognized even by the ancients. Similarly, in the Twentieth Century, the use of lead in paint pigments was ended because of the danger of lead poisoning, especially to children.[6][7][8] By the mid-1980s, a significant shift in lead end-use patterns had taken place. Much of this shift was a result of the U.S. lead consumers' compliance with environmental regulations that significantly reduced or eliminated the use of lead in nonbattery products, including gasoline, paints, solders, and water systems. Recently, lead use is being further curtailed by the RoHS directive.



Lead ore
Lead ore

Native lead does occur in nature, but it is rare. Currently lead is usually found in ore with zinc, silver and (most abundantly) copper, and is extracted together with these metals. The main lead mineral is galena (PbS), which contains 86.6% lead. Other common varieties are cerussite (PbCO3) and anglesite (PbSO4). But more than half of the lead used currently comes from recycling.

In mining, the ore is extracted by drilling or blasting and then is crushed and ground. The ore is then treated using extractive metallurgy. The Froth flotation process separates the lead and other minerals from the waste rock (tailings) to form a concentrate. The concentrate, which can range from 50% to 60% lead, is dried and then treated using pyrometallurgy. The concentrate is sintered before being smelted in to produce a 97% lead concentrate. The lead is then cooled in stages which causes the lighter impurites (dross) to rise to the surface where they can be removed. The molten lead bullion is then refined by additional smelting with air being passed over the lead to form a slag layer containing any remaining impurities and producing 99.9% pure lead.



Lead has four stable, naturally occurring isotopes: 204Pb (1.4%), 206Pb (24.1%), 207Pb (22.1%), and 208Pb (52.4%). 206Pb, 207Pb and 208Pb are all radiogenic, and are the end products of complex decay chains that begin at 238U, 235U and 232Th, respectively. The corresponding half-lives of these decay schemes vary markedly: 4.47 × 109, 7.04 × 108 and 1.4 × 1010 years, respectively. Each is reported relative to 204Pb, the only non-radiogenic stable isotope. The ranges of isotopic ratios for most natural materials are 14.0 - 30.0 for 206Pb/204Pb, 15.0 - 17.0 for 207Pb/204Pb, and 35.0 - 50.0 for 208Pb/204Pb, although numerous examples outside these ranges are reported in the literature.

Because lead is radiogenic and formed from the decay of most of the heavier elements that formed billions of years ago, it is much more common and much cheaper than most heavy elements. The cost has been further lowered in recent years with the phasing out of lead in many processes, including gasoline and paint.


Health effects

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. The historical use of lead acetate (also known as sugar of lead) by the Roman Empire as a sweetener for wine is considered by some to be the cause of the dementia which affected many of the Roman Emperors. At one point in time, some lead compounds, because of their sweetness, were used by candy makers. Although this has been banned in industrialized nations, there was a 2004 scandal involving lead-laced Mexican candy being eaten by children in California. Even in these cases however, it should be noted that the lead is not an additive but merely a contaminant that enters incidentally via for instance, metal particles accumulated during grinding processes. [9]

The concern about lead's role in mental retardation in children has brought about widespread reduction in its use (lead exposure has been linked to schizophrenia). Lead-white paint has been withdrawn from sale in industralised countries. The yellow lead chromate is still in use; for example, Holland Colours Holcolan Yellow. Many older houses may still contain substantial lead in their old paint; see also lead paint: it is generally recommended that old paint should not be stripped by sanding, as this generates inhalable dust.

Lead salts used in pottery glazes have on occasion caused poisoning, when acid drinks, such as fruit juices, have leached lead ions out of the glaze.[citation needed] It has been suggested that what was known as "Devon colic" arose from the use of lead-lined presses to extract apple juice in the manufacture of cider. Lead is considered to be particularly harmful for women's ability to reproduce. For that reason many universities do not hand out lead-containing samples to women for instructional laboratory analyses.[citation needed]

Lead as a soil contaminant is a widespread issue, since lead may enter soil through (leaded) gasoline leaks from underground storage tanks or through a wastestream of lead paint or lead grindings from certain industrial operations.

There has been an e-mail circulating about the lead content of various consumer products, such as shampoo and most notably lipstick, since 2003. Though there are trace amounts of lead in some products, these levels are monitored by the FDA in the US and pose no real danger to health.[10]


Processing of metal from ore

The principle ores of lead are galena (PbS), anglesite (PbSO4), and cerussite (PbCO3). Most ores contain less than 10% lead, and ores containing as little as 3% lead can be economically exploited. Ores are crushed and concentrated by froth flotation typically to 70% or more. Sulfide ores are roasted, producing both metallic lead and a mixture with sulfates and silicates of lead and other metals contained in the ore.[11]

Lead that has not been converted to metallic form in the roasting process is reduced in a coke-fired blast furnace. This converts much of the remaining lead to its metallic form. The slag that separates as a result of this process contains concentrations of copper, zinc, cadmium, and bismuth that can be recovered economically, as well as up to 15% concentration of unreduced lead.[11]

Metallic lead that results from the roasting and blast furnace processes still contains significant contaminants of arsenic, antimony, bismuth, zinc, copper, silver, and gold. The melt is treated with air, steam, and sulfur, which oxidizes the contaminants except silver, gold, and bismuth. The oxidized contaminants are removed by drossing, where they float to the top and are skimmed off.[11]

Most lead ores contain significant concentrations of silver, resulting in the smelted metal also containing silver as a contaminant. Metallic silver as well as gold is removed and recovered economically by means of the Parkes process.[12]

Desilvered lead is freed of bismuth by treating it with metallic calcium or magnesium, which forms a bismuth dross that can be skimmed off.

Very pure lead can be obtained by processing smelted lead electolytically by means of the Bette process. The process uses anodes of impure lead and cathodes of pure lead in an electrolyte of silica fluoride.[11]


Descriptive chemistry

Various oxidized forms of lead are easily reduced to the metal. An example is heating PbO with mild organic reducing agents such as glucose. A mixture of the oxide and the sulfide heated together without any reducing agent will also form the metal.[12]

2PbO + PbS   →   3 Pb + SO2

Metallic lead is attacked only superficially by air, forming a thin layer of oxide that protects it from further oxidation. The metal is not attacked by sulfuric or hydrochloric acids. It does, however, dissolve in nitric acid with the evolution of nitric oxide gas to form dissolved Pb(NO3)2.

3 Pb + 8 H+ + 8 NO3   →   3 Pb2+ + 6 NO3 + 2 NO + 4H2O

When heated with nitrates of alkali metals, metallic lead oxidizes to form PbO (also known as litharge), leaving the corresponding alkali nitrite. PbO is representative of lead's II oxidation state. It is soluble in nitric and acetic acids, from which solutions it is possible to precipitate halide, sulfate, chromate, carbonate (PbCO3), and basic carbonate (Pb3(OH)2(CO3)2) salts of lead. The sulfide can also be precipitated from acetate solutions. These salts are all poorly soluble in water. Among the halides, the iodide is less soluble than the bromide, which, in turn, is less soluble than the chloride.[13]

The II oxide is also soluble in alkali hydroxide solutions to form the corresponding plumbite salt.[12]

PbO + 2OH + H2O   →   Pb(OH)42–

Chlorination of plumbite solutions causes the formation of lead's IV oxidation state.

Pb(OH)42– + Cl2   →   PbO2 + 2 Cl + 2 H2O

Lead dioxide is representative of the IV state, and is a powerful oxidizing agent. The chloride of this oxidation state is formed only with difficulty and decomposes readily into the II chloride and chlorine gas. The bromide and iodide of IV lead are not known to exist.[13] Lead dioxide dissolves in alkali hydroxide solutions to form the corresponding plumbates.[12]

PbO2 + 2 OH + 2 H2O   →   Pb(OH)62–

Lead also has an oxide that is a hybrid between the II and IV oxidation states. Red lead (also called minium) is Pb3O4.

Lead readily forms an equimolar alloy with sodium metal that reacts with alkyl halides to form organometallic compounds of lead such as tetraethyl lead.


See also





  1. For health concerns see http://www.lead.org.au/fs/shootingranges.pdf
  2. http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn2427
  3. http://www.lead.org.au/fs/fst27.html
  4. Lead in computing
  5. A history of pencils
  6. http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/health-public-affairs/mhcs/publications/4465.html
  7. http://www.epa.qld.gov.au/publications?id=1528
  8. http://www.qld.mpa.org.au/index.php/content/33/
  9. Lead candy from Mexico
  10. Urban legends regarding lead in lipstick
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 Samans, Carl H. Engineering Metals and their Alloys MacMillan 1949
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3
  13. 13.0 13.1 Brady, James E. and Holum, John R. Descriptive Chemistry of the Elements John Wiley and Sons

External links

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