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

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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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health, Food

Big Win For Consumers’ Right-to-Know

Today, the U.S. Senate failed to pass their version of the DARK Act (Denying Americans the Right to Know), which would have kept consumers in the dark about what's in the food they eat, falling 12 votes short of the 60 required to continue the debate.

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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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Media Hit | Public Health, Food

Most voters want GMO food labels, poll finds

A majority of American voters support mandatory labeling of food containing genetically engineered ingredients, a new national poll commissioned by labeling supporters shows.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

Survey Finds Dangerous Toys on Store Shelves

Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, according to U.S. Public Interest Research Group’s 27th annual Trouble in Toyland report. It reveals the results of laboratory testing on toys for lead, cadmium and phthalates, all of which have been proven to have serious adverse health impacts on the development of young children. The survey also found small toys that pose a choking hazard, extremely loud toys that threaten children’s hearing, and toy magnets that can cause serious injury.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

New Report: American Lives at Risk from Unsafe Foods

Despite government commitments to address the problem, food recalls are on the rise and our food safety systems are broken, according to a new report by U.S. PIRG. 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

Licorice Lead Recall Showcases The Need For More Food Safety Programs

The recent discovery of high lead levels in licorice by the California Department of Public Health shows the importance of having strong public health and consumer protections that protect us - and in particular children - from the harmful effects of toxic chemicals.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

Cantaloupe Salmonella Outbreak Highlights Need for Strong Food Safety Programs

The Food Safety Modernization Act, signed into law by President Obama in January 2011, requires the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to establish new food safety rules, including new standards for growing fruits and vegetables. Those rules were originally intended to come out at the beginning of 2012, but eight months later we are still waiting for these rules to be released.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

Mad Cow Highlights Need for Continued Funding of APHIS Program

With the identification of a cow infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy in California yesterday, the cuts that the USDA want to make in the APHIS program may not be prudent. 

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

Raising Risk 2003

There are many potential risks associated with the release of genetically engineered plants into the open environment. And if field experiments are not properly monitored, genetic pollution can result, putting farmers' livelihoods, public health and the environment at risk. Thus our environment is serving as the laboratory for widespread experimentation of genetically engineered organisms with profound risks that, once released, can never be recalled.

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Report | VPIRG | Public Health

Hidden Hazards

Polymer clays are a form of modeling clay that have become popular in recent years among children, adolescents and adult craftspeople. Unfortunately, these clays contain polyvinyl chloride (PVC) mixed with phthalate plasticizers. While the phthalate plasticizers make the clay soft and workable, they are also associated with potential health risks. Phthalates as a class of chemicals have been implicated in birth defects, reproductive problems, nerve system damage and other negative health effects.

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

Antibiotic Resistance Marker Genes in Genetically Engineered Foods

Many genetically engineered crops on the market currently contain antibiotic resistance marker genes because of the imprecision of the gene insertion process. Scientists use these genes to determine whether a gene has inserted itself into a target organism. As a result of incorporating these antibiotic resistance genes, these crops threaten the already growing problem of antibiotic resistance, which the world medical community acknowledges as a serious public health concern.

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

Raising Risk 2001

The science of genetic engineering, particularly as applied to agriculture, is radical and new. Contrary to popular belief, the technology is not very precise. As a result, genetic engineering raises a host of ecological and human health concerns that have not been adequately addressed. Despite this, on tens of thousands of acres across the United States, although the exact amount is not publicly available, experiments with genetically engineered crops are being conducted in the open environment with little oversight and public notification.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

Weird Science 2000

Genetic engineering permits scientists to manipulate genetic materials in ways that were once inconceivable. But the technology relies on methods that result in haphazard insertion of genetic elements into a plant's genetic code. This in turn may lead to disruption of complex gene interactions and unintended, potentially catastrophic results. It is a technology that has the power to transform food and the food supply in ways not possible with traditional breeding. Genetic engineering is very different, very powerful and worth a great deal of caution.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Our Take on Toxics: Build From the Stronger House Bill | Carli Jensen

The Senate and House have both passed bipartisan bills to update the ineffective and outdated Toxics Substances Control Act of 1976 (“TSCA,” pronounced “TOSS-kuh”). These bills are intended to update a deeply broken process that currently leaves 99% of chemicals on the market untested for safety, exposing us to products containing chemicals linked to negative health effects, like cancer, reproductive problems, asthma, and more. The next step is for the House and Senate to come together in a conference committee to reconcile the differences between the two bills.

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Blog Post | Public Health, Consumer Protection, Democracy, Food, Transportation

State of the Union: Five Things We’ll Be Listening For | Chris MacKenzie

President Obama has hyped his final State of the Union address as a speech that will help to define his legacy. Here's how he can break new ground.

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Blog Post | Public Health, Food

The State of Antibiotics 2016 | Bill Wenzel

While President Obama discusses some of our nation's biggest economic, social, and foreign policy challenges at the 2016 State of the Union address, here's our take on one of the most pressing public health issues of the era.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Is your daily routine toxic? | Anna Low-Beer

Because of a lack of regulation, many cosmetics and personal care products contain potentially toxic ingredients, like formaldehyde and lead acetate. What toxic chemicals might you encounter as you go about your daily routine? 

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Blog Post | Public Health, Food

Progress in 2015 and hope for the new year | Anya Vanecek

This was a big year for the fight to save antibiotics. Now we’re looking to the future and looking forward to continuing our efforts to stop the overuse of antibiotics in factory farming.

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