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Lead found in rural drinking water supplies in West Africa

Scientists are warning that drinking water supplies in parts of rural West Africa are being contaminated by lead-containing materials used in small community water systems such as boreholes with handpumps and public taps.

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Lead

Lead (pronounced /ˈlɛd/) is a main-group element with symbol Pb (Latin: plumbum) and atomic number 82. Lead is a soft, malleable poor metal, also considered to be one of the heavy metals. Lead has a bluish-white color when freshly cut, but tarnishes to a dull grayish color when exposed to air. It has a shiny chrome-silver luster when melted into a liquid.

Lead is used in building construction, lead-acid batteries, bullets and shot, weights, and is part of solder, pewter, fusible alloys and radiation shields. Lead has the highest atomic number of all stable elements, although the next element, bismuth, has a half-life so long (longer than the estimated age of the universe) it can be considered stable. Like mercury, another heavy metal, lead is a potent neurotoxin that accumulates in soft tissues and bone over time. Lead poisoning was documented in ancient Rome, Greece, and China.

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