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 latest 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 | Public Health, Health Care

Prescription for Danger

Compounding pharmacies are increasingly behaving like pharmaceutical companies by producing drugs in bulk, despite the fact that they are not inspected or regulated like the pharmaceutical industry. Due to this lack of oversight, many compounding pharmacies have not adhered to safe manufacturing practices, and shown little regard for consumer safety. According to an analysis of warning letters sent to other compounding pharmacies by the FDA from 2002 to 2012, there is a long history of violations that have in many cases led to unnecessary illness, injury, and even death.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

Texas Fertilizer Plant Tragedy Reminder of Need for Better Chemical Safety Rules

Wednesday night’s tragedy at the West Fertilizer plant is a catastrophic reminder of the threat posed by hazardous chemicals used in thousands of facilities across the nation, and the need for us to take every step to prevent the recurrence of such tragedies.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

Consumers Need Stronger Public Health Protections to Ensure Compounded Drugs Are Safe

Our drug approval system for medicines manufactured by the pharmaceutical industry and regulated through the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act is the one of the strongest and safest in the world. However, for the last 20 years the rapidly evolving compounding pharmacies industry has been successful in thwarting regulations at every opportunity.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Meat Industry Admits: We Need Food Safety Inspectors | Nasima Hossain

We’ve already written about the impact that sequestration’s across-the-board cuts will have on food safety. Consumers are understandably troubled, and now it seems that even the meat industry is concerned enough about this problem to write to the President.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

REINS Bill Would Dismantle America’s Public Health and Consumer Protections

“The REINS Act (H.R. 367) would block enforcement of existing health and safety laws by creating new bureaucratic hurdles and impossibly short timelines for approval of critical rules. This bill poses a grave threat to the health and safety of the American people.

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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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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

New Poultry Rule Won't Be Putting Safe Chicken on Our Plates

The new USDA poultry inspection rule will not help update an outmoded system. Expanding the poultry inspection pilot program in this manner will only increase the number of foodborne illnesses we see. This is a rule that will protect the poultry industry’s business interest, not the public health and consumer safety of the American public.

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

Bagged Lettuce Recall and Fresh Produce Inspections

The Agriculture Department’s tiny $5 million Microbiological Data Program screens high-risk fresh produce throughout the year for bacteria including Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria. Cutting this program will leave public health officials without a crucial tool used to investigate deadly foodborne illnesses in fresh produce leaving inspections in the hands of produce producers.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

Toxics in Nail Polish a Potential Danger to Women and Children

Nail polish manufacturers need to be completely honest in labeling their products. This practice of labeling nail polish “three-free” when it is not is grossly dishonest and knowingly misleads consumers and nail salon workers into thinking they are using a safe product when they are not.

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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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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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Blog Post | Public Health

Why Are We Still Waiting for Food Safety Rules? | Nasima Hossain

Recently we have all seen or heard about the food scares that have transpired from eating egg salad, spinach and cantaloupe. In fact, the cantaloupe foodborne illness outbreak was one of the worst the U.S. has seen in over 25 years. This Listeria outbreak linked to Colorado grown cantaloupes led to over 29 deaths, with over 139 people infected across 28 states.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Happy 106th birthday to two landmark food safety laws! | Nasima Hossain

This week marks the 106th anniversary of the passage of the Pure Food and Drugs Act and the Federal Meat Inspection Act, two landmark pieces of consumer based legislation which established the modern food protection system as we know it.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Lets Make Smart Regulations About Protecting Consumers, Not Saving Big Business Money | Nasima Hossain

In Cost/Benefit Chief Cass Sunstein’s recent White House Blog Post, Making Regulation Smarter to Save Lives and Money, Sunstein talks about streamlining regulations as highlighted in the President’s recent Executive Order. What the President and Mr. Sunstein should be talking about is a fast and smart regulatory review process.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Maryland set to sign Strong Law on Arsenic in Chicken | Nasima Hossain

Maryland has decided to sign into law a bill this week, against stiff opposition from the poultry industry, making Maryland the first state to end a practice in existence since 1944.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Medical Implant Recalls Raises Questions about 510K Review Process. | Nasima Hossain

Medical devices can range from bandages and medical clamps to surgical mesh and hip replacements. The medical devices industry is a $100 billion-a-year industry and works aggressively with the FDA to push thousands of devices onto the market every year.

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