"Five out of nine members of a scientific panel that advise [California] state on toxic chemicals have been fired in recent weeks, following disputes with the chemical industry and a conservative group that targets environmental laws.
'It's been gutted,' said Paul Blanc, a professor of occupational medicine at UC San Francisco and one of the panel's four remaining members.
While the Scientific Review Panel on Toxic Air Contaminants is not well known outside of regulatory circles, its work carries clout in state environmental policy. Since its inception in 1983, the panel has evaluated more than 300 chemicals – everything from pesticides to secondhand smoke – and advised the state on how these chemicals should be regulated.
Among the dismissed members is panel chairman John Froines, who also heads the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at UCLA's School of Public Health. Froines has served on the panel since it was founded and has been its chairman since 1998. Froines says he learned of his dismissal July 22 in a two-sentence letter from Assembly Speaker John A. Perez, D-Los Angeles.
Panel members, including Froines, have come under fire over the years when their designation of certain substances as toxic came at a cost to industry."