Eli5: How is lead entering the body?

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If there is Lead in like a chain or a watch from a country where it gets contaminated etc..
how does it trespass the skin barrier when worn?

Also can the lead somehow contaminate other materials it touches? (Considered the lead is on the surface of the material of a jewellery)?

Can’t it be cleaned of with a wet wipe or something?

In: Chemistry

4 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

Most lead exposure is from food and drink. Especially water passing through unprotected lead pipes.

Anonymous 0 Comments

By being ingested or inhaled. So for jewelry, the real risk is kids putting it in their mouth.

If the lead is ever turned into dust, that can find its way into people, so abrasion or some kind of poorly applied coating could be secondary risks.

Yes, wet wipes can clean lead dust. You can’t get the lead out of a piece of jewelry though.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Keep in mind that when people talk about lead in your body, it’s not a chunk of elemental lead, it’s compounds that contain lead. A bar of metallic, elemental lead is pretty harmless. You could even swallow it without accomplishing much (**ALTHOUGH DON’T!** because “not much” is still not “nothing”). Elemental lead, like most metals, is pretty nonreactive, and lead jewelry isn’t particularly dangerous (although, again, not *particularly* dangerous doesn’t mean you should do it).

What’s truly dangerous is lead in an organic compound, like [tetraethyllead](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetraethyllead), which used to be added to gasoline (hence, “unleaded” gas, which today is the default). The “organic” part means that has carbon bonds in the chemical, which also usually means some hydrogen as well. The carbon and hydrogen bits attached to the lead make it absorb easily into lipids, aka fats. Your skin is impermeable because of the lipids in your cell membranes, and additional layers of fat between and underneath skin cells.

Water doesn’t mix with fat, which means the water inside your body can’t get out easily. It also means that anything which dissolves in water can’t get *in* very easily, because it won’t dissolve into the fatty tissue. Organic metal compounds, though, *do* dissolve in fats and oils. When these get onto your skin, they get sucked right into the fat, like putting water on a sugar cube. Once inside your body, the compound starts breaking down and you get free lead atoms that bind into molecules in your body where the lead shouldn’t be, “clogging up” those receptors.

Lead jewelry isn’t *super* unsafe, but constantly wearing the jewelry will slowly wear the lead down into dust, since lead is very soft. Whenever the lead comes into contact with air, it will oxidize into lead oxide, which is toxic. Since you’re constantly degrading the lead, you’re constantly exposing more of it to the air and oxidizing more of it. Some of this may make it through your skin over time. It’s also probably getting on your fingers when you touch the jewelry or the skin around it, and then getting from your fingers onto your food. The dust may also be getting into your lungs.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Sounds scary lol. Thanks for explaining