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Lead: Lead in Products
Table of Contents
Background and Overview
Lead in Products
Health Effects
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Sources of Lead
A complete list of products that contain lead.

Lead is a naturally occurring metal found in the Earth's crust, where it is mined for use in many products. Lead is a desirable element because it resists corrosion, tarnishing, and rusting and acts as an added pigment and stabilizer for products to protect them from deterioration in sunlight. Additionally, lead's high density and bonding ability makes it a desirable metal. Although use of lead has been banned in many products in the United States, such as gasoline, residential paint, food cans, plumbing systems, and certain imported products (like ceramic cookware and furniture) may contain potentially dangerous levels of lead. Listed below are common products that still use lead in production and how much lead they consume relative to other industries:



Consumption of Lead (%)

Storage Batteries Batteries provide energy storage. A lead-acid battery uses a reaction between lead metal, lead oxide, and sulfuric acid to move electric charges. It consumes its original chemicals while transferring charges. A lead-acid battery can be recharged easily by pushing charges through it backwards. The recharged battery can be used over and over again and lasts for several years. In automobiles, lead-acid batteries as power supplies and storage devices for electric motors are an inexpensive way to improve miles per gallon and emissions performance. 80.81
Paints, Ceramics, Pigments, Chemicals Lead is a desirable additive to paint because of its ability to resist corrosives and act as a dying agent. Although residential use of lead-based paint has been banned in the United States, it is still used for nonresidential purposes. Lead glazes are commonly used in ceramics because they increase surface durability. Most ceramic products contain lead, but are considered safe if they have been properly formulated and fired to prevent release of toxic amounts of metal into foods. 4.78
Ammunition Lead used in the manufacturing of ammunition is melted and alloyed before it is cast, sheared, extruded, swaged, or mechanically worked. Lead is used to construct ammunition because it is heavy and malleable. Additionally, lead is readily available and inexpensive compared to some alternatives. 4.69
Sheet Lead The high density of sheet lead makes it a desirable product for insulating x-ray tubes. Whenever radiation exists, lead is used to protect the user and control exposure. Also, lead sheet is the most malleable of the common metals and can easily be shaped without fracturing. Since lead is highly resistant to corrosion, lead sheet is used to manufacture corrosion-resistant gaskets, large pipes, lead sinks and lab fixtures, and lead-lined tanks for acid storage. Sheet lead is the most permanent protection available.

Cable Covering Since lead acts as a heat stabilizer, it is commonly found in cable covering and wiring. This allows the wires to be protected from heat and sunlight. 1.40
Casting Metals Metal casting is the act or process of shaping a metal in a mold. Tin/lead alloys have low melting points, which is desirable of metal casting. 1.13
Brass/Bronze Billets and Ingots A billet is a small, usually rectangular, bar of metal in an intermediate stage of manufacturing. An ingot is a mass of metal, such as a bar or block, that is cast in a standard shape for convenient storage or shipment. Lead in the brass and bronze makes the metal more malleable. 0.72
Pipes, Traps, Extruded Products Lead was commonly used in making pipes because of its resistance to corrosion. Faucets and plumbing are not regulated and can contain up to eight percent lead. 0.72
Solder (excluding Electronic Solder) Lead solder is a metallic compound that was used to seal solder cans and joints in plumbing systems. Lead is used for solder because it resists corrosion. Since 1988, solder that has lead content over 0.2 percent cannot be used for joints or fittings in any private or public drinking water system. 0.70
Electronic Solder Lead solder is used in the assembly of electronics to provide the final surface finish for printed wiring boards, to apply to component leads to achieve a compatible solderable surface, and to attach electronic components on printed wiring boards. Lead solder is inexpensive relative to other alloys and performs reliably under a variety of operating conditions. In addition, it possesses unique characteristics such as low melting point, high strength, ductility, fatigue resistance, high thermal cycling, electrical conductivity, and joint integrity that are well suited for electronic product applications. 0.49
Miscellaneous The following are just a few products that fall into the miscellaneous category. Lead is commonly used in plastics and rubbers as a heat stabilizer to protect against deterioration from sunlight. Additionally, sinkers and jigs are made of lead because of lead's high density and malleability. The high density of lead makes it a common additive to sailing boat hulls to offset the weight of the high masts and sails. 2.77



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Hub Last Updated: 10/8/2013