I just went camping and someone brought a game from Australia. There was a wooden box with the top made of a thin, soft sheet of lead with a hole in it. The participants then throw coins at the box, and getting the coin inside gives some points, while landing a coin on top gives a little less. I've been looking online, and I think the game is called "Toad in the hole".

I know that lead is toxic, but I don't know in what way. Is it toxic to touch this lead sheet? And to eat afterwards without washing hands?

Maybe lead is only toxic in some form?

  • $\begingroup$ Children used to play with models of soldiers made of lead, so … $\endgroup$
    – Jan
    Mar 1 '17 at 12:37
  • $\begingroup$ @madsskjern How did you know that the sheet was made of lead and not some other metal? $\endgroup$
    – Prem kumar
    Mar 26 '18 at 4:59
  • $\begingroup$ First of all, that is what they told me. And it seemed like lead, it was heavy and soft and had the color of lead. I have bo reason to believe it was not :) $\endgroup$ Apr 2 '18 at 10:29

No, it is not toxic to touch solid lead. Lead poisoning results from

  • ingestion: paints used to contain lead-based materials, and kids would sometimes eat the peeling paint leading to health problems.
  • inhalation: if you were grinding or polishing a block of lead and fine particles were generated, you might inhale them if you weren't using the proper protective equipment and health problems could develop.
  • dermal contact: if you were working with organic lead compounds that were easily absorbed through the skin, serious health problems would result if you weren't using the proper protective equipment. Gasoline used to contain lead compounds, but they were removed from gasoline in order to prevent problems.

Being around or touching solid lead would not lead to ingestion, inhalation or dermal contact issues.

Here's a link to Wikipedia article on lead, see the section on "Health effects" if you'd like to read more or read about the biochemical mechanism of action.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Thanks. Wikipedia writes: "As lead paint deteriorates, it peels, is pulverized into dust and then enters the body through hand-to-mouth contact or through contaminated food, water or alcohol". Those quantities in the paint are probably very small, but still dangerous. Then imagine throwing coins at a sheet of lead. Is there really no part of the lead sheet that breaks free as lead dust / lead particles? Such particles would also end up in the carpet or atmosphere, like the lead from the paint. $\endgroup$ Sep 8 '14 at 15:15
  • $\begingroup$ If you did it all day, every day for the rest of your life, there might be a problem. You were probably a couple of feet away which makes inhalation even less likely. I just can't see a one-time event like this being significant. Look at all the folks who pumped leaded gasoline for years and they seem to be OK. $\endgroup$
    – ron
    Sep 8 '14 at 15:19
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Just to be safe, I'd wash your hands after handling the lead. $\endgroup$
    – user137
    Oct 14 '14 at 14:31
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @MadsSkjern: I know it's an old comment, but I'd just like to clarify that lead paints used lead compounds as pigments, and thus contained a significant fraction of lead. For example, this page says that "[p]aints made before 1950 contained large amounts of lead. In fact, some paint made in the 1940s contained up to 50% lead by dry weight." $\endgroup$ Dec 3 '16 at 16:12
  • $\begingroup$ Also note the lead in paints is not pure lead (that would be a dull grey paint) but usually lead oxides that are colourful and provide rust protection, not the same as lead metal. Water pipes for drinking water were made of lead in many places for long periods and are not the cause of chronic toxicity. However children's brain development is hampered by exposure to lead COMPOUNDS so best to keep them away from lead paint. $\endgroup$
    – KalleMP
    Dec 3 '16 at 22:43

While merely touching lead is probably not directly dangerous, lead, being soft, probably remains on fingers after handling and therefore washing hands before eating, etc. is necessary after such handling.


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