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

Five Things You Should Know About DuPont Chemical Company | Anna Low-Beer

DuPont Chemical Company knew it was polluting communities with a toxic chemical, but kept it quiet for decades. Here's what else you need to know about the industry giant. 

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Blog Post | Public Health, Food

The foundation is crumbling | Bill Wenzel

What was missing from President Obama's visionary plan for medical progress? 

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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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U.S. PIRG Statement on State of the Union Address

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama came before Congress to give his seventh and final State of the Union address. In his speech, the President highlighted top national priorities and some of the greatest challenges faced by the American people.

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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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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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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

New Report Series, “American Lives at Risk”

A new report by Demos and U.S. PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) finds that Americans’ lives, health and livelihoods would be put at risk if so called “regulatory reform” proposals now being considered by the U.S. Congress were to become law.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

Stop Using Pink Slime in School Lunches

Parents have a right to know what is in their children’s school lunches. The USDA should ensure that only high quality, nutritious meat is used for the school lunch program.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

Food Inspections: Are They Being Tackled Effectively to Combat Food-Borne Pathogens?

It is time that the USDA and the FDA modernize their food safety procedures to better protect us from the real hazards in food: deadly pathogens and microbial contaminants in our meats and fresh produce.

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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, Food

Predictable Problems in the FDA Annual Report | Bill Wenzel

Not only did the FDA’s voluntary Guidance for Industry #213 not lower the sale and use of antibiotics for food-producing animals, these sales actually increased 4%.

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Blog Post | Public Health

The Phantom, and Other Menaces | Anya Vanecek

In the midst of warnings that the post-antibiotic era is quickly approaching, we see evidence that it has already arrived.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Not-so-secret-Santas in Congress Using Spending Bill To Roll Back Health, Safety, Wallet Protections | Ed Mierzwinski

With spending authorization for the federal government set to end on December 11, Congressional leaders are working with powerful special interests on their not-so-Secret-Santa lists to use spending bills as vehicles to gut health, safety and wallet protections popular with the general public but not with Wall Street or the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. They know they cannot win a fair fight. So they’re loading up the must-pass funding bill with so-called “riders,” which are unrelated policies that couldn’t get passed on their own. Everything we fought for in Wall Street reform, including the CFPB, is on the chopping block. So are many other PIRG health, safety, wallet and democracy priorities.

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Blog Post | Public Health, Food

America is "getting smart" about antibiotic resistance | Anya Vanecek

Increasingly, we agree on this: antibiotic resistance is a major and growing threat to human and animal health, and we must do something to stop it. 

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Blog Post | Public Health

Saving your bacon: takeaways from the W.H.O. announcement on the dangers of processed meat | Anna Low-Beer

When the World Health Organization announced last week that processed meat is linked to cancer, the world went wild. But we can all agree: we have the right to know about these dangers. So what about the thousands of dangerous invisible chemicals that saturate our daily products? Surely, we have the right to know about them too.

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