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

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

Activists Celebrate National Fried Chicken Day by Calling on KFC to Save Antibiotics

On National Fried Chicken Day, volunteers and staff with U.S. PIRG held thirty events in front of KFCs across the country to call on the Colonel of fried chicken to switch to serving chicken raised without routine antibiotics.

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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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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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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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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

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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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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