Flint resident Sarah Truesdail holds her daughter Gabriella Venegas, 5, as she screams out with tears rolling down her face while a health official pricks her finger with a needle for a free lead test on February. 8, 2016 at Carriage Town Ministries in Flint.
Photograph by Jake May — AP

Pipes are just the beginning.

By Rob Curran
March 6, 2016

The trouble with trying to solve the country’s lead problem is that all the easy fixes have already been done. “Yes, if we could replace all of our 100-year-old water mains overnight, we’d gladly do it,” says Gary Burlingame of the Philadelphia water department. But such projects can carry a steep political and economic price tag. Here’s what it would cost to put a dent in the lead exposure of American kids:

$1 trillion

To make all U.S. pipe replacements deemed “urgent” by the American Society of Civil Engineers

$216 billion

To perform lead-paint abatement on the 24 million at-risk homes, at an average cost of $9,000 per home

$3 billion

To treat the estimated 535,000 children with injurious levels of lead in their blood

$18 million

To test the soil in the 13,500 playgrounds in the 100 largest U.S. cities

A version of this article appears in the March 1, 2016 issue of Fortune.

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