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

Senate panel approves tighter oversight of compounding pharmacies but bill is under fire

Public health and consumer advocacy groups are attacking Senate legislation designed to tighten oversight of specialized pharmacies such as the one at the center of this past fall’s deadly meningitis outbreak, saying it does not adequately address health risks.

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

New Report Documents a Decade of Safety Violations by Compounding Pharmacies

The contaminated drug that caused last fall's fungal meningitis outbreak and killed 55 people is just the tip of the iceberg of an industry-wide problem, according to a new U.S. PIRG report. The meningitis outbreak was simply the latest and deadliest in a long line of errors and risky practices by compounding pharmacies.

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

Listeria Contaminated Eggs Yanked From 34 States

Friday’s announcement of widespread listeria contamination in eggs produced in Minnesota underscores the need for food inspections to happen at more regular intervals.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

Popular Magnets Still Pose Danger if Swallowed

Small, but powerful magnets used in magnetic building toys and magnetic jewelry cause serious injury and death from swallowing. The Consumer Product Safety Commission should revisit this hazard and reconsider asking manufacturers to put prominent and very visible warnings labels on all products both for children and adults that contain these magnets.

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Media Hit | Public Health

Fox News: The Most Dangerous Toys of 2011

Each fall, public safety experts from U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), the federation of state public interest research groups, browses toy stores across the country looking for potentially dangerous toys. Despite the stringent regulations imposed on toy manufacturers in the United States, these experts never fail to find a handful of items on store shelves that appear innocuous, but actually pose toxic, choking, strangulation or excessive noise hazards to children.

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

Survey Finds Toxic or 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 26th annual Trouble in Toyland report.This morning U.S. PIRG, joined by Commissioner Robert Adler from the Consumer Product Safety Commission and Ivan Frishberg, a parent, released the report. It reveals the results of laboratory testing on toys for lead and phthalates, both of which have been proven to have serious adverse health impacts on the development of young children. The survey also found toys that pose either choking or noise hazards.

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Media Hit | Public Health

CBS News: Watchdog Warns of Toy Dangers as Holidays Near

Shoppers awaiting this week's traditional kick-off of the holiday shopping season should find plenty of safe toys for children, but consumer advocates say some dangers still lurk.

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

Needless Risk

Across the country, petroleum refineries, chemical plants and other industrial facilities use and store large amounts of hazardous chemicals that, if subject to an accident or attack, would release dangerous toxins.  Such releases could injure or kill thousands of people that live in communities in close proximity to these facilities. Petroleum refineries stand as a stark example of the unnecessary risk posed by such facilities in the event of an attack or accident as well as the opportunity to mitigate this risk by using safer alternatives to toxic chemicals.

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

Raising Risk

Although genetically engineered crops are still poorly understood, corporations and universities are growing them experimentally in the open environment with little oversight and public notification. Contrary to assertions made by proponents of the technology, genetic engineering is not precise. Scientists cannot control where the gene is inserted into the host’s genetic code, nor guarantee stable expression of the gene in the new genetically engineered organism.

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

Duty To Disclose

Scientists in the United States and abroad continue to raise serious concerns about the environmental and human health risks associated with growing and consuming genetically engineered crops. As a result, genetically engineered foods may pose financial risks to the food companies buying and selling genetically engineered crops.

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

Voters in Seven California Counties Consider Banning Genetically Engineered Agriculture

In March 2004, despite industry spending $700,000 in opposition, Mendocino County passed Measure H, which makes it unlawful to cultivate or raise any genetically engineered crops or animals. As a result of Mendocino County’s success, seven other counties in California are poised to make decisions to also prohibit genetically engineered agriculture this fall.

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

Dangerous Dozen

Across the United States, thousands of industrial facilities use and store hazardous chemicals in large quantities that pose major risks to their neighbors. More than 100 of these facilities would each put at least one million people at risk of injury or death in the event of a chemical accident or terrorist attack.

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Blog Post | Public Health

HR 4078 - A Bill that will Shutdown all Public Health and Consumer Safeguards | Nasima Hossain

HR 4078 yesterday passed a floor vote in the House. If passed by Congress this bill will shut down the U.S. regulatory system as we know it. Two other equally hazardous bills are rolled into it, H.R. 4607 and H.R. 3862. Combined, these bills will halt or delay virtually ALL rulemaking and public health protections and do absolutely nothing to stimulate the economy or new job opportunities. They would shut down safeguards that Americans take for granted.

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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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