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Flimsy Asbestos-Consultant Training Hit

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WASHINGTON--Training courses for the consultants who are helping schools comply with the new asbestos law are of mixed quality and do not adequately stress health concerns, educators have told a House panel.

At an oversight hearing held this month by the Subcommittee on Environment, Energy, and Natural Resources, educators testified that prospective consultants participating in such courses often have a "lackadaisical attitude.'' They also said that some of the materials approved by the Environmental Protection Agency for distribution in the classes "espoused the industry viewpoint.''

Participants "joke about the health concerns and make comments like, 'We're going to be laughing all the way to the bank,''' said Bill Kitchen 3rd, a member of the Johnstown, N.Y., school board who has attended several EPA-accredited training sessions.

In a letter submitted to the panel, Emilio DeVito, president of Fidelity Environmental Insurance Company, called the qualifications of many course instructors "flimsy at best.''

Concerns about the quality of the courses were voiced even before the law went into effect last December.
All asbestos inspectors and management-plan consultants must pass courses accredited by the EPA or by states that have requirements that are at least as stringent as those of the federal government. Any high-school graduate who passes the three-day course for inspectors can become an accredited consultant.

The EPA has approved 240 such training courses since last year.

Under the federal law, all schools must inspect for the cancer-causing substance and submit asbestos-management plans to state authorities by Oct. 12.

In an interview last week, Katherine L. Herber, legislative counsel for the National School Boards Association, noted that some of her group's members had found that the training courses were "not up to par.''

But Robert McNally, a program analyst for the EPA, said that the agency was "confident that these courses provide the information that needs to be provided.''

He said that schools should hire consultants with a demonstrated knowledge of buildings. The burden is on states to establish stricter criteria for courses, instructors, and participants, he added.

At the hearing, educators also noted that many schools were finding it difficult to finance their compliance effort and to get insurance for asbestos-related activities.--EF

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