Lead is a metal used in many things, but it is also dangerous. This is why houses no longer have lead pipework and petrol is unleaded.
It is a heavy metal that is denser than the majority of other materials and can be easily shaped into thin sheets or coils. It has a low melting point and it is soft and malleable. It is also a highly toxic element because of the high amount of lead in the air, water and soil.
The most common way to make lead is by smelting it in a furnace called a blast furnace. This process creates liquid iron by chemically transforming limestone, coke and iron ore in the furnace. Then, the slag that forms at the bottom of the furnace is drained and a metal called lead is formed from it.
Other methods to produce lead include the Parkes process, which uses liquid-liquid extraction to separate silver from lead and the Betterton-Kroll process, which removes bismuth from lead.
Other sources of exposure to lead include working in a job that requires using paint or other materials that contain lead, spending time in areas where old lead-based paint is deteriorating and doing renovation or repair work that disturbs painted surfaces in older homes or buildings. Ingestion of lead dust or fume from these sources may cause headache, nausea, vomiting, abdominal spasms, fatigue, sleep disturbances and anemia. It can also cause pain in legs, arms and joints.