Encyclopedia of Geochemistry

Living Edition
| Editors: William M. White

Lead Isotopes

  • Dominique WeisEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-39193-9_293-1


Isotopic ratios of Pb are key geochemical tracers for unraveling the compositional evolution of the solar system, the Earth, and the continental crust, and are an important geochronometer with many different applications.

Lead has of four naturally occurring stable isotopes, 204Pb (1.4 %), 206Pb (24.1 %), 207Pb (22.1 %), and 208Pb (52.10 %). 204Pb is non-radiogenic; the latter three are the final decay products of the three decay chains from uranium (238U and 235U) and thorium (232Th), where all the intermediate members of each series have relatively short half-lives and can be ignored on long geological timescales (tens millions of years). Some of the U decay series and 230Th decay present applications for shorter time periods (i.e., volcanic eruption, sedimentation at the bottom of the oceans, coral dating).

238U has a half-life comparable to the age of the Earth , i.e., 4.47 Ga, whereas 235U half-life is much shorter, 0.704 Ga, and as a result, almost all the original 235...


Isotopic Composition Continental Crust Lead Isotope Thermal Ionization Mass Spectrometry Lead Isotope Ratio 
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© Springer International Publishing AG 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Pacific Centre for Isotopic and Geochemical Research, Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric SciencesUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada