“There is no safe level of lead,” said John Oliver on Last Week Tonight. “It’s one of those things so dangerous you shouldn’t even let a little bit of it inside you—much like heroin or Jeremy Piven.”
While the “horrific events” in Flint, Michigan have been in the news a lot over the last year, as Oliver noted, the problem extends far beyond the borders of Michigan. To illustrate his point, he highlighted a USA Today Network report that revealed lead contamination in almost 2,000 water systems across the 50 states.
Even more threatening is the possibility of ingesting lead paint dust, which, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), is present in 2,144,000 homes where children under the age of six live. The CDC further estimates that 535,000 children between ages one and five have elevated lead levels in their blood. “Even low-level exposure can lead to irreversible damage, like lower IQs, antisocial behavior, and reduced attention span,” Oliver noted.
Despite these documented hazards, this year Congress appropriated only $110 million for lead removal. “That’s a little more than Americans spent on Ride Along 2, a movie which, incidentally, the New York Post described as ‘as funny as lead poisoning,’” Oliver said, before noting that if Congress continues to cut funding “a whole lot more children might get poisoned.”
To help draw attention to the cause and remind the public of the hazards of lead poisoning, Oliver called upon his new network neighbors on Sesame Street to help spread the word — as you can see on the video from 14’25”.