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Inspectors' Motto: Be Prepared for the Worst

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Chicago--A good asbestos inspector needs more than just good training. He or she also needs equipment--a lot of it.

Instructors at a course sponsored here by the University of Illinois at Chicago's Midwest Asbestos Information Center recommended that students take the following items with them on inspections:

A ladder and flashlight to enter small, dark places.

Film canisters to hold asbestos samples taken from the building.

A plant sprayer, to dampen the area being sampled.

Plastic drop cloths to drape beneath the area sampled.

Knives, linoleum cutters, and other tools to extract samples.

A caulking gun to fill in the holes after the sample is taken.

Lots of duct tape, to replace4jackets on pipes.

A camera to photograph the samples as they are being taken.

A small blackboard or erasable writing surface, to record the date and site of the sample for photographs.

Diaper wipes for cleanups.

A clip board.

A vacuum cleaner with a special filter.

The instructors said it was common for inspectors to work with at least one assistant, and to tote their equipment from room to room on a cart.

In addition to the sampling equipment, inspectors also must be concerned about wearing the correct protective clothing.

The most important item is the mask, according to Gail Brandys, a self-employed asbestos consultant who led a session on the8equipment needs for personal safety.

But even a well-fitting mask may not entirely eliminate an inspector's exposure, Ms. Brandys said. A half-mask fitted with a special filter, which could cost several hundred dollars, still lets in a few small and potentially deadly asbestos fibers.

As an extra precautionary measure, she noted, inspectors and other asbestos workers wear a special paper-thin suit to protect their skin. Despite its appearance, Ms. Brandys said, the suit is very warm, and inspectors should only wear undergarments or a bathing suit beneath it.

Summarizing what might be the asbestos-workers' code on risk-reduction, she added: "You should really prepare for the worst."--ef

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