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

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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Report | U.S. PIRG and Consumers Union | Public Health

Prescription For Change

Our September 2014 survey of physicians paints a grim picture of the growing problem of antibiotic-resistant infections. The overwhelming majority of surveyed doctors reported that one or more of their patients had been diagnosed with a presumed or confirmed case of a multi-drug resistant bacterial infection in the past twelve months. They also expressed concern about the use of antibiotics in livestock production facilities on healthy animals in order to promote growth and prevent disease.

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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 Education Fund | Public Health

Weak Medicine

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria infect more than 2 million people per year in the United States, causing more than 23,000 deaths. State governments, the FDA and other branches of the federal government should take steps to protect human health from the antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can develop on factory farms.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

Ending the Overuse of Antibiotics in Livestock Production

Able to combat potentially lethal illnesses such as pneumonia, bacterial meningitis, rheumatic fever and even life-threatening infections developed from simple scrapes or surgery, antibiotics have saved millions of lives and are one of our most important public health tools. Despite their significance, however, overuse and misuse threatens the efficacy of these precious drugs. Among the biggest abuses, often antibiotics are given to healthy animals as a production tool, and not to treat illness.

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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, Consumer Protection

Preventing the Chobani Mold Problem

The constant stream of food recalls has made one thing clear: more needs to be done to protect Americans from the risk of unsafe food. Instead we’re seeing important rules, standards, and inspections that could significantly improve food safety getting blocked, underfunded, or delayed, allowing the drumbeat of recalls to continue.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Celebrating the mandatory toy safety standard—An important provision of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act

These days, we can mostly expect that toys sold on store shelves are tested to meet adequately strict safety standards — but that hasn’t always been the case. In 2007, toys with beloved childhood icons like Thomas the Tank Engine and Elmo were recalled because they contained excessive levels of lead. Another toy, when swallowed, created a toxic drug; yet another posed serious hazards due to strong magnets that could tear a child’s stomach lining if two or more pieces were swallowed.

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Blog Post | Public Health

FDA’s BPA Ban: A Small, Late Step in the Right Direction

Last week the FDA announced a ban on the toxic chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) from infant formula packaging. The rule change should provide some comfort to parents — however, it also showcased the FDA’s sluggish pace of action, and demonstrates to states that they shouldn’t wait for federal action to move forward with public health rules on their own.

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Blog Post | Public Health

European Trade Talks Threaten Our Health and Safety | Nasima Hossain

Talks on the European and U.S. trade agreement start this week and are being hailed by both sides as a way to strengthen their lagging economies. But for consumers, lowered trade barriers too often mean the crippling of vital public health and safety rules.

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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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