Lead is one of those stalwart materials that man has been using for thousands of years as evidenced from ancient remains in many parts of the world. The problem is that we all know, and have known for many years, that it is highly damaging to animal and human health, yet we remain seduced by its ductility, softness, malleability and resistance to corrosion. Lead is used widely in a myriad of applications, but especially in the construction industry and for making weights, shots and bullets, safety shields and casings, plus batteries, pesticides and petrol. Attempts at phasing out the latter group are slow, but in progress, as governments pressurise industry for safer alternatives.
Annual production of lead worldwide is around ten million tonnes of which about 50% is from recycling scrap. Half the world’s lead is used to make lead-acid batteries for the automobile industry.
The poisonous substance should be treated with respect so avoiding long exposure to it is the best safeguard. Detrimental health effects include damage to the nervous system and brain disorders by the neurotoxin accumulating in the soft tissues and bones.
In response to these findings I plan to work with lead by incorporating it into some of my sculptures – harnessing the material to act as a means and a metaphor. I will of course be taking the necessary health and safety precautions.