formula: Pb; CAS Registry Number: 7439-92-1

Naturally occurring poisonous heavy metal

Lead occurs naturally in the environment where it is present mostly as mineral. It is easy to process and - owing to its high density – suitable for absorbing radiation and sonic waves. Lead is therefore used in shipbuilding and radiation shielding.
The mayor field of application, however, is electrical engineering (automotive batteries). It also plays an important role in engineering, building industry, as ammunition, in pyrotechnics, and in other fields in chemical industry. The organic lead compound tetra-ethyl lead was used as anti-knock additive in fuels until the end of the 1980s.

Anthropogenic activities are the main emission source for lead. Natural sources like weathering and volcanic activities are comparatively low. Lead contaminations are found in the atmosphere, in soils and waters. The latter is mostly a result of run-off incidences, atmospheric deposition and discharge of waste water. Through plants, animals, and water lead may enter the human food chain.

Environmentally relevant characteristics of  many lead compounds include:


  • Common mussel species as invasive animal in rivers and lakes with high information level for water pollution
  • Bioindicator in rivers and lakes
  • Fine insoluble mineral or organic particles in the water phase
  • Common brown alga of the coastal areas of the North and Baltic Sea
  • One of the most important edible mussel species common in the North and Baltic Sea
  • As the only viviparous fish in German nearshore waters, it is a bioindicator in nearshore coastal marine ecosystems.
  • Inshore, the herring gull mainly feeds from the sea: upon fish, mussels, and crabs.
  • A major primary producer in semi-natural and anthropogenic affected ecosystems.
  • A major primary producer in semi-natural and anthropogenic affected ecosystems.
  • A deciduous tree typical of ecosystems close to dense conurbations and an indicator for the characterisation of the immission situation during the vegetation period.
  • As the most dominant deciduous tree species in Central Europe, it plays a significant role in most nearly natural and also anthropogenically influenced forest ecosystems up to an altitude of 1100 m.
  • A pigeon species home in nearly every city.
  • Soil is livelihood and biosphere for humans, animals, plants and soil organisms. All the substances brought in are transported, transformed and/or accumulated in the soil.
  • Student groups with an even number of female and male students at the age of 20 to 29.

Sampling area

Sampling period

1981 - 2022