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

Blog Post | Public Health

Statement on Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Passage from U.S. Public Interest Research Group Toxics Campaign Director Carli Jensen | Carli Jensen

U.S. PIRG is disappointed with the TSCA bill that was passed today by the Senate and will soon be sent to the President.

The bill preempts state action to regulate a chemical while the EPA is merely assessing its safety – a years-long process that will leave us all at risk. The bill also preempts state laws after the E.P.A. has issued a final regulation, preventing states from enacting additional protections. When it comes to health protections, the federal government should set a floor, not a ceiling.

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Blog Post | Public Health, Food

mcr-1 meets Mr. X | Matthew Wellington

A new strain of resistant E. Coli bacteria was found on a Chinese pig farm last November, then in countries worldwide. Last week, the U.S. joined that list. Now, a hypothetical post-antibiotic era has become all-too real.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

STATEMENT OF U.S. PIRG on detection of colistin-resistant bacteria in the U.S.

The detection of colistin resistance in the United States is a sign that we may be near a post-antibiotic era, and losing our ability to treat common bacterial infections.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Statement on Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Reform from U.S. Public Interest Research Group | Carli Jensen

We are disappointed with the TSCA bill that was released by the House and Senate leaders and we urge Congress to reject the bill. When it comes to public health protections, the federal government should set a floor, not a ceiling. By unnecessarily preempting states’ efforts to regulate toxic chemicals, this bill does more harm than good.

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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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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

Baltimore Takes Leadership Role on Chemicals

Today, the Baltimore City Council passed a resolution calling on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy to work quickly to issue a strong rule to make chemical plants safer. Resolution #15-0261R, introduced by Baltimore City Councilmember Bill Henry (District 4) passed unanimously.

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Media Hit | Public Health

New York Times Prints Our Take on Chemical Safety

Toxics Campaign Director Carli Jensen wrote a letter to the editor calling for stronger chemical plant safety regulations.

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News Release | Public Health

McDonald’s announces plan to cut overuse of antibiotics in chicken

McDonald’s announced a new policy today to curb the overuse of antibiotics in raising the chickens that ultimately become McNuggets or other McDonald’s products, within 2 years.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

New Poll Reveals Overwhelming Majority of Doctors Concerned About Antibiotics Use on Healthy Food Animals

The overwhelming majority of doctors -- a total of 93 percent -- are concerned about the common meat industry practice of using antibiotics on healthy animals for growth promotion and disease prevention, according to a new poll released today commissioned by Consumer Reports and released by Consumers Union and U.S. PIRG.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

Some Good, Some Bad in Obama Executive Order on Protecting Antibiotics

Today, President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order – Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria. While the order takes several important steps necessary to control the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, it misses the opportunity to call for critical reforms in the agricultural sector that are essential to protect public health.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

On April 17th Taxpayers Will Pay To Clean Up After Polluters At Toxic Wastes Sites

In 1995, Superfund’s polluter pays fees expired. Since then, the financial burden to clean up toxic waste has shifted entirely from polluters to regular taxpayers. Taxpayers now pay for all Superfund-led toxic cleanups, spending well over $1 billion annually to protect public health from the irresponsible business practices of polluting industries. As valuable public dollars are spent on these cleanups, polluting industries are enjoying a $4 million per day tax break courtesy of the American taxpayer.

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

The Food Safety Net

Protecting the safety and integrity of the food supply is one of the oldest functions of government, one that the American people expect their government to perform and perform well. As federal agencies become increasingly under-funded and influenced by powerful corporate interests, the states’ role in maintaining the food safety net grows ever-more important.

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

Empty Pockets

After 25 years of experience, the Superfund program has evolved to protect Americans from toxic chemicals released when industry collides with nature, such as hurricanes and floods. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) now must use this experience to face its biggest challenge yet—cleaning up the toxic pollution left behind after Hurricane Katrina flooded the Gulf Coast. Unfortunately, funding shortfalls plague the Superfund program and may hinder its ability to respond to Hurricane Katrina and address the thousands of other polluted sites littered across the country.

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

Undisclosed Pollution

Since 1987, the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) program has been the nation’s premiere pollution disclosure program. By requiring companies to disclose the pollution they release to our air, water, and land, transfer off site, or dispose in a waste dump, the TRI program has ensured the public’s right-to-know about toxic pollution in communities. The TRI program is under attack. The Bush Administration has issued a series of proposed changes over the past few years, some of which would weaken the program by reducing the amount or quality of information available to the public.

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

The Right Start

A child’s first few years are an exciting time for parents who hope, if for nothing else, that their child starts his or her life happy and healthy. Unfortunately, not all products marketed for children and babies are completely safe for their use. Many contain toxic chemicals that may have detrimental health impacts for children exposed during critical stages of development.

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Blog Post | Public Health, Food

Subway’s New Sandwich is Helping Save Antibiotics | Anya Vanecek

Subway just released its first sandwich made with meat raised without antibiotics. It was a delicious way to address one of the most pressing public health issues of our time.

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Blog Post | Public Health

U.S. PIRG Testifies in Favor of Strong Chemical Plant Safety Rule | Carli Jensen

Earlier this month, the EPA formally proposed a long-awaited rule on chemical plant safety in response to an executive order issued in 2013 by President Obama, which called on several agencies, including the EPA to modernize their chemical plant safety rules. The new proposed rule triggered a 60-day public comment period, and with it, a public hearing in Washington, D.C., where Legislative Director Jerry Slominski gave the following statement for U.S. PIRG:

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Video Blog | Public Health, Food

Who's next to help save antibiotics?

Doctors, farmers, restaurant owners, and hundreds of thousands of people like you are all placing the same order: meat raised without routine antibiotics. Many fast food chains have stepped up to help stop the overuse of antibiotics. The question is, who will be next?

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Blog Post | Public Health, Food

Senate stands with consumers on GMO labels | Bill Wenzel

A bill to stop state GMO labeling laws was blocked decisively in the Senate today – failing by 11 votes. 

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Blog Post | Public Health

Progress in the chicken industry | Bill Wenzel

One thing is for sure: when it comes to chicken, the industry changing, and consumers can take a lot of credit.

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