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Galena is the major source of lead ore, and Missouri is the top producer of lead in the United States. Galena is dark gray in color and breaks into small cubes. Lead is a very soft, blue-gray, metallic element that has been used since ancient times. It is a very heavy element, but it is rare for the element to appear alone in nature.

Lead is normally combined with other elements, forming a variety of interesting and beautiful minerals; the most significant is galena, worked worldwide for its lead content. The majority of lead is used to make batteries for cars, trucks and other vehicles, wheel weights, solder, bearings and other parts. Lead is also used in electronics and communications, ammunition, television glass, construction, and protective coatings.

Some is used to make protective aprons for patients having x-rays to shield the body from excess radiation exposure, for crystal glass production, weights and ballast, and specialized chemicals. Lead is toxic and ingestion can cause damage to the digestive and nervous systems, so its use in some applications has been discontinued; as with lead-based paints, which have a sweet taste (some children were eating the paint, causing lead poisoning.