John Oliver took lawmakers to task on the realities of lead poisoning Sunday, and he did it with the help of your favorite Sesame Street characters.
It all began in usual fashion on HBO’s Last Week Tonight, with the host discussing the water crisis that has erupted in Flint, Michigan. “Flint has become a city whose very name evokes disaster. Like Benghazi or Wako or Smurf Village,” he said, later pointing out how nearly 100,000 residents received contaminated water from the Flint River starting in 2014 after the city’s water source was switched.
But the problem is, lead in the U.S. is not contained by Flint’s borders. “A USA Today Network report found lead contamination in almost 2,000 additional water systems spanning all 50 states,” said Oliver. “And we can’t just act like it’s not there the way we all pretend that the public swimming pool is not three percent child urine — and that’s generous, by the way.”
Then there’s the problem with lead paint from past decades, which somehow still remains in homes across the nation. “The main program to abate lead paint in housing, HUD’s Led Hazard Control program, has never been appropriated funding above $176 million,” said Oliver. “It’s been steadily going down since 2003, and this year, we’ve allocated just $110 million. That is just 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.'”
With the problem as relevant as ever, Oliver headed over to the Sesame Street set to get an infectious explainer on the issue. Check it out below.