Water pipes that date back to the Roman Empire, glazes on prehistoric ceramics, and the cosmetic kohl, used by ancient Egyptians to darken their eyelids, are a few examples of ancient uses of lead. Today, lead, which has been mined on all continents except Antarctica, is one of the most important metals to industrialized economies.
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Prior to the early 1900s, lead was used primarily in ammunition, burial vault liners, ceramic glazes, leaded glass and crystal, paints, dyes, inks or other protective coatings, pewter, and water lines and pipes. Following World War I, the demand for lead increased because of growth in the production of motorized vehicles, many of which use lead-acid batteries to start their engines. The use of lead as radiation shielding in medical analysis and video display equipment and as an additive in gasoline also contributed to an increase in the demand for lead.
Today, the other significant uses of lead are in arms and ammunition, oxides in glass and ceramic products, casting metals, and sheet lead.
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