Lead carbonate is a white insoluble compound that can be broken down into smaller pieces using a chemical process called hydrolysis. This is done by placing the carbonate in an acidic solution, which allows the lead to slowly dissolve into ions. When the ions are dissolved, they can then be dispersed throughout the solution. This is useful in many industries, including the production of paints.
In nature, it occurs as the mineral cerussite; in the laboratory, it is produced by passing CO2 into a dilute solution of lead acetate or by shaking a suspension of a lead salt less soluble than carbonate with ammonium carbonate at a low temperature to avoid formation of basic lead carbonate. Commercial grades typically have a purity of 99.0% and may contain nitrate or nitrite (as HNO3), iron, zinc, and cadmium in addition to soluble impurities such as sodium nitrate and calcium nitrate. It is used as an ingredient in a variety of industrial coatings and pigments, such as anticorrosion lead paint and outdoor paint; in the tin-lead plating industry as a flux to oxidize copper and silver; and as a coating on polyvinyl chloride to improve its dielectric properties and as friction liners for pulleys on hoist cables. It is also used to accelerate the curing of moldable thermosetting silicone resins.
It is toxic if inhaled or swallowed and can cause acute poisoning with symptoms such as pains in the head, disturbance of vision, and tremors. It is a suspected carcinogen and is harmful to the kidneys, liver, nerves, and bones. Chronic exposure can result in nephropathy with gastrointestinal contractions, vomiting, and dehydration. In experiments on animals, it was found that lead carbonate increases bone storage of arsenic and lead, and decreases the concentrations of the former in blood, muscle, lung, liver, metacarpal diaphyses and epiphyses, and ribs, while increasing the latter in kidney and brain.