Fact Sheet 2011–3045
Lead is a corrosion-resistant dense metal that is easily molded and shaped. The chemical symbol for lead, Pb, is an abbreviation of the Latin word plumbum, meaning soft metal. Archeological research indicates that lead has been used by humans for a variety of purposes for more than 5,000 years. Water pipes that date back to the Roman Empire, glazes on prehistoric ceramics, and the cosmetic kohl, used by ancient Egyptians to darken their eyelids, are a few examples of ancient uses of lead. Today, lead, which has been mined on all continents except Antarctica, is one of the most important metals to industrialized economies.
Posted July 2011
For additional information contact:
Part or all of this report is presented in Portable Document Format (PDF); the latest version of Adobe Reader or similar software is required to view it. Download the latest version of Adobe Reader, free of charge.
Kropschot, S.J., and Doebrich, J.L., 2011, Lead—Soft and easy to cast: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2011–3045, 2 p., available at https://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2011/3045/.