What You Need to Know about Lead in America

Hillary Clinton’s design during Sunday night’s Democratic argue to remove the lead from “everywhere” in the native land children might encounter it would be incredibly expensive—to the tune of well immersing $1 trillion. Fortune breaks down more of the costs here.

But she is up~ about an important point: pipes aren’t the country’s biggest point in dispute. It’s lead exposure levels overall. Lead exposing. in the hardest hit areas of Flint, Michigan—in which place Sunday’s night debate was held and the location of a major water contamination crisis—hovers in a circle 6%. That’s unacceptably high—still, alarmingly, it’s lower than elsewhere in the nation, even in areas where pipes are relatively sound. In Detroit, at what place lead-tainted soil and paint are greater degree of common, 10.2% of children acquire higher than normal amounts of entice in their blood. In Allentown, Pa., that outline is 23.11%. Plus, Flint has the superior situation of being on guard, where other communities are not.

The honorable news in the battle against be in advance of in the U.S. is that it’s not since bad as it once was. The chart underneath shows the decline over the hold out two decades. The bad news is that it’s lull a severe problem. Even after the nation took steps to eliminate lead from gasoline and adorn, the problem lingers, particularly in urban areas, where exposure tends to be significantly higher than medium.

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What comes next? Howard Mielke of the Department of Pharmacology at Tulane University School of Medicine has been studying the event of lead on cities for years, says that performing is urgent, and has been with a view to a while. “We have evaluated take the ~ of in many cities and I distrust that each city has a festering tend exposure problem,” Mielke wrote Fortune in an email.

Mielke’s solution: landscaping with low-lead soil in playgrounds and other areas. It would subsist, he says, a “less extravagant and more effective” way of reducing exposing. than any other tactic. “We consider a clean air act, a shapely water act, but no clean spot act,” he says. As some example, he points to Norway, which has a soil program to shelter the kids who play in it.

But whether it’s stain, paint, or pipes—it will take important political will to bring the nation’s lead exposure levels down to acceptable levels. As we adage in Sunday night’s debate, Flint could true well serve as a rallying plaint to start doing that.

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