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What is lead used for?

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Quick Answer

Lead has a variety of uses, including soldering, construction, pewters and fusible alloys. It plays a role in the production of lead crystal and has been used to make bullets even before the invention of guns.

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Full Answer

Lead shielding is worn by patients and medical staff when handling X-rays and radioactive material. Bricks made of lead are utilized as protection against radiation.

Lead is especially famous for its use as plumbing pipes, so much so that its symbol, Pb, means "plumbum." Though there are places where lead is still used for drainage pipes, it's not used so much for freshwater pipes because of its toxicity. Plumbers prize lead because it is dense, yet soft enough to be easily hammered and molded. Lead pipes can also be easily fixed with a bit of lead solder.

Lead was previously a component in paints, but the practice was reduced because of toxicity. During renovations of old homes, specialists are needed to remove lead paint safely from the walls, windows and trim. Lead was also used as an additive to gasoline, but this too was discontinued for environmental reasons. However, lead is still used in car batteries. Typesetters also previously used an alloy of lead.

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