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What are Lead Blocks?

By Crystal K. Wilford
Updated May 17, 2024
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Lead blocks — often referred to as lead bricks — are solid blocks of lead used to construct or reinforce temporary storage areas, buildings, or rooms such as containment chambers. Most standard blocks are created from approximately 99% pure lead. Antimony is sometimes mixed with the lead to create a harder, more durable compound. While lead sheets can also be used in construction, their thinness and lack of durability make them less versatile than blocks, which can be reused and transported swiftly and easily.

Generally, lead is used to contain radioactive materials or shield against radioactive rays. The density of lead makes it exceedingly difficult for any form of wave, ray, or radiation to pass through. Lead blocks can be crafted in a variety of shapes, sizes, and thicknesses, which makes them useful in many types of structures. The blocks are often either simple rectangular bricks, or specially designed shapes that interlock with other bricks to form a more stable structure while reducing risk of radiation leaks.

Interlocked bricks are often molded with V-shaped grooves and ridges on opposing edges. This design permits the ridge of one block to fit into the indentation of another without the need for special adhesives or mortar. The notched lead blocks provide a secure structure that can be assembled and dismantled without wasting resources or requiring additional materials. The interlocked blocks also make possible the construction of a stable ceiling, as well as walls and floors.

Straight blocks do not interlock. They can be stacked in rows or layers for construction purposes, or can be used independently to provide counterweight for lifting or balancing heavy objects. Usually these lead blocks require two layers, which are staggered to prevent radiation from seeping through the cracks. Non-interlocking blocks can be transported to the construction location and cut to fit building needs on-site.

Lead blocks are used in a variety of places that use nuclear power, x-rays, and gamma-rays. They can also be used to construct storage areas for radioactive materials. Hospitals, power plants, and science labs are some examples of areas where lead bricks may be used to shield the general public from exposure to radiation. The lead used to create blocks carries its own health risks should the bricks be handled without proper skin protection. The risk of lead poisoning is increased by inhaling lead dust, ingesting lead powder, or leaving lead on exposed skin for an extended period.

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