Lead is known to be bad for your health for a long time, but I can't find a explanation why is it so.

In school they teach that heavy metals are poisonous, and they are trapped inside our bodies. I can just assume that the liver can't process those elements. But I still don't understand why this happens.

And finally why is lead different from, let's say, gold that is also a very dense metal, but is safe.


Lead acts as a poison in a variety ways relative to what tissue it is exposed to. For example, lead is able to pass through the blood-brain barrier where it can act act as Calcium homolog to interfere with neurotransmitter release. In the blood, Lead inhibits porphobilogen synthase, an enzyme required for heme synthesis.

Lead's toxicity mechanisms include:

  1. Its ability bind sulfhydryl groups, common to many enzymes
  2. Its ability displace metals in enzyme complexes
  3. Its ability to act as a Calcium homolog

    Periodic Table

Lead's valence electron configuration is $\require{mhchem} \ce{[Xe] 4f^14 5d^10 6s^2 6p^2}$; which means it has two electrons in its valence shell. This pair of valence electrons contribute's to Lead's ability to act as a Calcium analog and to Lead's tendency to form compounds in which it has an oxidation state of +2. Many such compounds dissolve in lightly acidic solutions. This has created lead exposure hazards when acidic tap water was pumped through lead pipes and when fruit juices have been served from ceramic vessels with lead-containing glazes.

Lead Poisoning


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    $\begingroup$ The part about the elements and their electons is pure speculation. Can you please either correct it or take it out? Following your argumentation gold should be as reactive as other elements which only need one electron to reach noble gas configuration. Gold in fact is so unreactive that it is always found in its elementar form in nature. $\endgroup$ – Chris Sep 11 '14 at 19:58

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