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Many School Asbestos Consultants Lack Training, G.A.O. Study Finds

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Washington--The reason that schools may have shoddy asbestos-management plans is that their asbestos consultants lacked the training and experience to do a proper job, the results of a General Accounting Office report suggest.

The report, released this month, concludes that the Environmental Protection Agency's standards for asbestos workers are too lenient, and it calls on states to improve their programs for such workers.

Under the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act of 1986, all schools were required to inspect for asbestos and submit management plans to state authorities by October 1988, unless they requested a deferral until May 1989.

All asbestos work, including inspections and abatement activities, was to be performed by workers who had passed classes that were certified by the epa

The law required the agency to set standards for the training of five different types of asbestos workers, and required states to adopt, by July 1989, worker-accreditation programs that were at least as stringent as the epa model.

But only 31 states have adopted an accreditation program for all five types of workers, the report found, and the epa lacks the authority to enforce this part of the law, the report says.

At the same time, it suggests, the agency's training requirements were not sufficient. The report identifies a number of problems with school inspections, management plans, and abatement efforts, which school officials said they believed were linked to the limited training and experience required of asbestos workers.

Yet, the report notes, the epa's standards includes no experience or education requirements for prospective asbestos workers, except for the requirement that they pass an epa- or state-approved training course.

As a result, the report says, 18 of the 45 school asbestos officials interviewed by the gao said they believed that their management plans were "only generally accurate"; 3 said they believed that their plans were "inaccurate."

Some asbestos workers, the report states, misclassified the condition of asbestos-containing material, inaccurately listed square footage, or failed to identify the precise location of the asbestos.

The epa is likely to address many of the issues in the gao report when it releases regulations required by a federal asbestos bill adopted last year that requires longer training programs for asbestos workers, officials said. It will also release its own review of the ahera program later this month.--ef

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