Safeguarding Public Health

Special interests have recently launched attacks against public health and safety rules at the federal and state levels. Our Safeguarding Public Health Program advocates for safeguards that make our food, drugs, medical devices and other products safe for us and our families to use.  

Critical Safety Protections At Risk

We’re fortunate to live in a time when we can walk into a store and feel secure that the food, drugs, and other products for sale are safe to use. We’re able to do this thanks to all the public health and safety protections that we have in this country.

However, special interests — such as the chemical industry, pharmaceutical industry, medical devices industry and food industry — have recently launched strategic attacks against all public health and safety rules at the federal and state level. Opponents of consumer safety are engaged in a systematic effort to discredit the very idea that government protections hold any value for our society. Additionally, policy initiatives seeking to dismantle public health protections are constantly being introduced in Congress.

U.S. PIRG is defending consumers against these attacks, so that we can continue to live in a safe and healthy environment. Our Safeguarding Public Health Program advocates for protections and rules that make sure our food, drugs, medical devices and other products are safe to use.

Over the last 40 years, U.S. PIRG has fought for and won numerous public health and safety protections. Most recently, U.S. PIRG successfully campaigned to give the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) new authority to keep lead out of children’s products and allow the CPSC to establish new tools to inform consumers about dangerous products. We also helped pass the Food Safety Modernization Act, which gave the FDA new authority to act quickly when unsafe food is discovered.

Read our series of reports on the importance of public health and safety rules.

As the U.S. and the European Union begin negotiations on a major new trade agreement, we need to ensure that it doesn’t weaken or destroy critical public health rules. Send a message to the President, and ask him to defend our consumer protections.

Issue updates

Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health, Consumer Protection

Getting Personal with Chemicals

We should be able to trust that the products we buy are safe — especially the ones our families use every day, directly on our bodies. However, we looked into common ingredients in popular personal care products, and found that when we use these products, like shampoo, baby wipes, deodorant, shaving gel, or perfume, we are often dosing our bodies with chemicals that can disrupt our hormones, cause developmental problems, cause cancer, and more.

This consumer guide describes the results of our investigation of 10 popular personal care products that contain chemicals of concern.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Statement on President Obama Signing Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act from U.S. Public Interest Research Group Toxics Campaign Director Carli Jensen | Carli Jensen

Yesterday, President Obama signed into law H.R. 2576, the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. This bill, to update the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), passed the House and Senate earlier this year.

U.S. PIRG is disappointed with this law. It is one step forward, and two steps back for public health. 

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Blog Post | Public Health, Antibiotics

Grilling to protect public health | Anya Vanecek

With antibiotics, we can all enjoy the summer free from the worry that a stumble on the sidewalk or a minor burn from the grill could turn into a serious illness. So what could be a better centerpiece to the picnic table than meat raised without routine antibiotics?

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Blog Post | Public Health

What’s that toxic smell? One Father Clashes with the Chemical Industry | Anna Low-Beer

The movie Stink! originated with one pair of children’s pajamas that Director John Whelan bought his daughters for Christmas in 2011. The new pajamas, when taken out of their plastic packaging, smelled overwhelmingly of chemicals. That one smell prompted Whelan to look deeper into fragrance and the chemical industry’s use of secret and often toxic chemicals in our everyday products. He simply wanted to know – what’s in the stuff we buy? “It seemed like a common-sense question to ask…I’m just trying to find out what chemicals they would put on kids’ pajamas,” he said. A common-sense question, yes. One with a simple answer? Not so much. 

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Blog Post | Public Health, Food

Food recall season off to a big start | Anya Vanecek

Once again, the shift from spring to summer has carried with it a string of contamination-related food recalls. Twenty in the last month -- and that number is climbing.

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U.S. PIRG Statement on State of the Union Address

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama came before Congress to give his seventh and final State of the Union address. In his speech, the President highlighted top national priorities and some of the greatest challenges faced by the American people.

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Media Hit | Public Health, Food

Stop the overuse of antibiotics on factory farms

It’s estimated that 23,000 Americans will die from superbugs — bacteria that are difficult or impossible to treat with antibiotics.

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Media Hit | Public Health, Food

Saving antibiotics requires decisive action

Our organizer in Missouri makes a compelling case for stronger FDA action to combat the rise of superbugs.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

Medical Professionals Call for Action to Save Antibiotics

Nearly six hundred medical and health care professionals from across the nation are calling on major restaurant chains to set strong antibiotics policies that protect public health.

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Media Hit | Public Health

October Saw Two Important Actions to Reduce the Overuse of Antibiotics on Livestock

October was a big month: a new policy in California restricts antibiotic overuse on livestock, and Subway announced that it will phase out the sale of meat raised with antibiotics.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

Trouble in Toyland

The 2008 "Trouble in Toyland" report is the 23rd annual Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) survey of toy safety. This report provides safety guidelines for parents when purchasing toys for small children and provides examples of toys currently on store shelves that may pose potential safety hazards. We visited numerous toy stores and other retailers to find potentially dangerous toys and identify trends in toy safety. This year, we focused specifically on toys that contain lead and phthalates in our research.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Public Health, Consumer Protection

Total Recall: The Need for CPSC Reform Now

This report explains why Congress needs to enact a strong final law that includes all of these key uncompleted reforms - a new toy standard that requires mandatory safety testing for toys, a ban on toxic phthalates, and whistleblower protections  - while rejecting industry’s eleventh-hour demands to add new and unprecedented limits on state authority to enforce and enact product safety laws.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

Pulp Fiction

Across the country, pulp and paper mills, petroleum refineries, chemical plants and other industrial facilities use and store large amounts of hazardous chemicals that could be released in the event of an accident or terrorist attack. Releases at these chemical facilities could endanger thousands or even millions of people working and living in nearby communities.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

Toxic Pollution And Health

Using the latest available TRI data, we examined releases of chemicals known or suspected to cause serious health problems and identified states and localities that are bearing the brunt of this pollution. Specifically, we looked at releases of substances recognized by the state of California to cause cancer, birth defects or reproductive problems; we also looked at releases of substances suspected by scientists to damage the neurological or respiratory systems.

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Report | Center for American Progress and U.S. PIRG | Public Health

Preventing Toxic Terrorism

The Center for American Progress, with assistance from the National Association of State PIRGs and National Environmental Trust, conducted a survey to identify such facilities and spotlight successful practices that have removed unnecessary chemical dangers from our communities.

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Blog Post | Public Health, Food

Whiter button mushrooms cannot forgo testing | Anya Vanecek

The FDA is likely to approve newly-developed GMO mushrooms without testing them for human health and environmental safety. For just an aesthetic change, this all seems rather foolish.

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Blog Post | Public Health, Food, Health Care

Eight moms leading the fight to save antibiotics | Anya Vanecek

This Mothers Day, we’re thanking eight mothers working to stop superbugs in their tracks. 

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Blog Post | Public Health, Food

Antibiotics: Yummy Yucky | Steve Blackledge

Two of the three Yum! Brand companies announced new antibiotics policies this week. One was a promising step to save antibiotics. The other was more "yucky."

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Blog Post | Public Health, Food

Colonel-quality chicken | Anya Vanecek

Last week, KFC announced a "Re-Colonelzation" of its recipes and cooking techniques. But in their effort to improve quality, they missed an important ingredient: a commitment to help protect public health.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Flint Pediatrician Gave a Voice to the Voiceless in Flint, Michigan | Anna Low-Beer

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha is the Flint pediatrician who led the charge in proving that Flint water was tainted by lead and was poisoning the community. Without her drive and dedication to the children of Flint, it is hard to say how long government officials might have left the public in the dark about the mounting crisis. In honor of Women’s History Month we’re recognizing Dr. Hanna-Attisha -- a doctor, mother, and activist -- who has relentlessly fought for the public interest. 

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