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Set of 12 Painted Lead Soldiers

  • 2.5 in. H x 1 in. W x .75 in. D
    Lead, paint
  • On display in Making Modernity
  • 2007.130


Toys represent just one of lead’s many traditional uses. Cheap, heavy, and easily molded, lead also works well in electric batteries. Its compounds are equally useful. Lead oxide, for example, makes paints opaque and sunproof. By the 1960s scientists recognized that even low blood levels of lead have harmful effects, resulting in legislation banning the sale of many lead-containing products—especially those attractive to small children.

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