PVA as an encapsulant

PVA asbestos

In this blog we are talking about PVA as an encapsulant of asbestos.

PVA stands for Polyvinyl Acetate and is a glue-like substance, best known as a wood glue, white glue or school glue.

It is a safe glue and doesn’t burn your skin. It is easily washable and is water based. It used to be used in the construction industry all the time because it was cheap, easy, doesn’t make a mess and can be cleaned up easily.

The problems with using PVA as an encapsulant

By the time we entered the industry in 2000, you were only allowed to use it under certain circumstances but contractors still tried to use it all the time within their asbestos enclosures to basically stick everything down. If they had removed a load of asbestos insulating board and there were asbestos fibres floating in the air, the quickest and easiest way to reduce the fibre levels, is to do a quick vacuum and apply PVA spray to everything, including the sheeting. The mist and fibres in the air will fall together and it will all stick and dry.

Let’s be clear – PVA is a cheat’s way. When the consultant runs the air test, it is more likely to pass because everything is stuck down. However, if future workers disturb the PVA, those fibres could be liberated into the air again.

It’s one thing using PVA on the polythene which would be removed as part of the destruction of the enclosure but it should not be used on other surfaces.

Imagine you PVA the brickwork in a boiler room. Everything sticks to it and it passes the air test but over the next few weeks, months and years, the PVA degrades. It’s more susceptible than other encapsulants and that’s why it is no good for this scenario.

If you go back to your school days can you remember using PVA glue on your hands and then peeling it off? When it is used in asbestos enclosures it is watered down so it is sprayable. As a result, it is weaker and can be easily removed with some water and slight rubbing and it becomes flaky. You cannot build layers with it. It dries see through, leaves the surface shiny and you cannot see what has been encapsulated.

The problem with PVA is it degrades over time and bacteria and fungi can degrade it whilst in situ. If you think about the types of place you might want to spray with PVA, like boiler rooms, they are susceptible to heat changes,  condensation and water penetration through walls so PVA is definitely not the go to material to use for sealing anything to do with asbestos.

Can PVA be used as an encapsulant on asbestos works?

Even using it on asbestos works, is frowned upon. It can be used as part of the clear up process. If there is lots of debris and dust being generated you are on occasion allowed to do that kind of seal but that is the only situation.

Other than this, PVA should definitely not be used as an encapsulant. PVA will not add any sort of protection to those asbestos materials, not for any length of time and that’s no good if you are trying to manage your asbestos. That is when you need to use sprayable vapour barriers.

PVA as a primary seal

Some contractors use PVA as a primary seal, prior to encapsulating asbestos. That can be good because the light spray from the hand sprayers can form a seal before the contractor paint it which is a good risk reduction for exposure. It takes to their boards a bit better sometimes.

What is a good alternative to PVA?

A good alternative would be to encapsulate with proper materials. For example, ET150 is an Asbestos Encapsulation Paint which can also be sprayed or applied with brushes and rollers. The finish isn’t always great as it is thicker than normal paint but you get more of a covering and protection. The vapour barrier paint finishes with a rubber protection. It will take more impact than normal paint and definitely more than what PVA would.

If you have any removal projects question the use of PVA. You might get the certificate you need but in the long run is that what you actually want? Does that suit you and your site’s needs? There may be occasions where it is used but you should question its use.

We’re a professional asbestos consultancy helping businesses deal with asbestos compliance using asbestos surveysasbestos testing, and asbestos removal management. Please call one of the team, or use the online form to obtain your free quotation. If you would like further information or advice on asbestos and asbestos training, contact the team on 0844 818 0895 or email info@acorn-as.com

Neil Munro

I work in a dual role at Acorn Analytical Services focused primarily on growing and leading the business from our Northampton office base. My focus is on overseeing all sales, marketing and financial activities from Northampton. I assist clients with high-level asbestos management strategies and training. Together with Ian Stone I host our weekly podcast – Asbestos Knowledge Empire and I'm Co-author of Asbestos The Dark Arts and Fear and Loathing of Health and Safety.

Need Help? Request a Call Back

Request a call back from one of our expert Asbestos Consultants who will help you identify what you need

More Asbestos Articles

Sam Savage Commercial Director

Commercial Director Sam Savage talks about his first 3 weeks

Last month we announced Sam Savage had joined Acorn Analytical Services as our Commercial Director, working out of the Northampton office and covering the South of England. Sam joins the business from an another asbestos consultancy where he worked for more than 20 years, working his way up from a trainee right through to contracts … Read more

Asbestos Awareness Training

Asbestos Awareness Training – the importance of practising what we preach

At Acorn, we work hard to educate everyone about the dangers of asbestos. One of the ways we do this is through our UKATA accredited Asbestos Awareness training courses. Being a UKATA Approved Training Provider not only demonstrates that Acorn Analytical Services is committed to delivering the highest standard of asbestos training, it also means … Read more

Have you ever wondered what the consequences could be if a company fails to protect workers from asbestos exposure?

Asbestos exposure risk leads to jail sentences

Have you ever wondered what the consequences could be if a company fails to protect workers from asbestos exposure? At Acorn, we work hard to educate the public about the dangers of asbestos which remains the world’s biggest workplace killer. When asbestos is disturbed it releases tiny fibres into the air which can cause a … Read more

MPs want asbestos to be removed from public and commercial buildings within the next 40 years.

MPs fight for asbestos to be removed from public buildings

Last week, MPs called for all asbestos to be removed from public and commercial buildings within the next 40 years. The Government’s Work and Pensions Select Committee wants the asbestos to be removed because the substance remains the biggest workplace killer in the UK with around 5,000 deaths linked to it every year. Even though … Read more

During Global Asbestos Awareness Week charities and organisations around the world will be working hard to raise awareness about the dangers of asbestos which remains the globe’s biggest workplace killer.

Hitting back at hidden killer during Global Asbestos Awareness Week 2022

Today marks the start of Global Asbestos Awareness Week. Between now and April 7, charities and organisations around the world will be working hard during Global Asbestos Awareness Week to raise awareness about the dangers of asbestos which remains the globe’s biggest workplace killer. In the UK, the use of asbestos was banned more than … Read more

Acorn Analytical Services is proud to be helping women to #BreakTheBias.

#BreakTheBias – International Women’s Day 2022

Today, Acorn is incredibly proud to be supporting International Women’s Day. The United Nations began marking the global event back in 1977 and the day is now recognised as the focal point in the movement for women’s rights. This year means a lot to our diverse team at Acorn because the theme for 2022 is … Read more

International Women's Day Emma

International Women’s Day 2022

To mark International Women’s Day, we wanted to introduce you to a couple of Acorn Analytical Service’s fantastic female employees. The asbestos industry – like the construction industry in general – is a male dominated sector but at Acorn we are fortunate to work with several brilliant female employees, including asbestos analysts, asbestos surveyors and … Read more

Do you ever stop to think about whether you could be exposed to asbestos in your home?

Workers exposed to asbestos during refurbishment

Do you ever stop to think about whether you could be exposed to asbestos in your home? During the 20th century asbestos was used heavily by the UK’s construction industry and even though its use has been banned for more than two decades its legacy lives on in our homes, garages, workplaces and public buildings. … Read more

Rare Disease Day is held every year on February 28 to raise awareness and generate change for the 300 million people worldwide living with a rare disease

Rare Disease Day 2022

Did you know that Rare Disease Day is taking place on Monday? Rare Disease Day is held every year on February 28 to raise awareness and generate change for the 300 million people worldwide living with a rare disease and for their families and carers. More than 600 events will be taking place across the … Read more

The Government’s Work and Pensions Committee has been carrying out an inquiry into the HSE's approach to asbestos management

Asbestos management inquiry held by Government

Over the past few months, the Government’s Work and Pensions Committee has been carrying out an inquiry into the approach of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to asbestos management in buildings. There are six million tonnes of asbestos in the UK, most of which can be found in more than 1.5 million buildings across … Read more