When the Chemical Industry Attacks, Science Loses

In the last few weeks, five out of nine members of a scientific panel that advises the state of California on toxic chemical safety have been fired, following lobbying by the chemical industry and a conservative group, the Pacific Legal Foundation, which targets environmental laws.

Since it began in 1983, the panel has done the essential work of evaluating more than 300 chemicals—everything from pesticides to air contaminants—and advised the state on how these chemicals should be regulated.  Without this panel, hundreds of additional health-threatening chemicals would be used in consumer products and manufacturing.

The chemical industry has criticized panel members for regulations that they say are costly to business. Panel members were targeted for a number of their strong positions in support of environmental health, including panel chairman John Froines’ public criticism of the state’s proposal to approve the toxic strawberry fumigant methyl iodide.

Among the industry flacks other complaints about the panel’s designations:  the 1998 conclusion that diesel particulate is toxic to human health—a decision that has formed the basis of the very trucking industry regulations that CEH has fought for.  The Pacific Legal Foundation, which has a long history of receiving funding from right-wing Foundations, filed a lawsuit directly after these trucking industry regulations were put in place, charging that panel members should not be allowed to serve such long terms.