In April of this year, comedian John Oliver teamed up with a few of Sesame Street's beloved characters, Elmo, Oscar and Rosita, to call attention to the nation's ongoing lead paint problem. It's one of many stories of late prompted by all the media attention on Flint, Michigan's lead-tainted water crisis.
But, as an April 18th article by Meredith Blake in the L.A. Times reported, Oliver pointed out that the problem of lead paint dust poses an even more serious threat to the nation's health. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), more than 2 million homes in America contain both a lead dust problem and a child under 6 years of age.
Despite his wry jokes about the issue, John Oliver knows it's no laughing matter. The scary fact is that it takes only a tiny amount (as little as 10 milligrams) to affect a young child's lifelong health. And it's literally a decades-old problem in the U.S. In fact, this isn't Sesame Street's first go-round with the issue. Twenty years ago, they produced a song to raise awareness of the problem.
Although lead abatement programs are initially costly, they've also been shown to be cost-effective in terms of lower crime rates, decreased medical spending and increased economic activity. Amazingly, though, Congress has repeatedly failed to fund HUD's lead abatement program. Some members even advocated reducing funding, while publicly expressing their horror over the situation. As Oliver noted in a more serious moment, "...it's clearly time to address (the issue) again".