Product Certification Articles

Giving Consideration to Certification
For the reduction of waterborne contaminants, certification takes testing to another level

Drinking water treatment unit (DWTU) testing protocols have long been established within the water quality improvement industry. These protocols have been documented within industry standards, and are designed to evaluate products’ effectiveness in reducing specific harmful contaminants present in drinking water to a level considered safe. These same industry standards are used in the certification of water treatment products.

In the early stages of product development, manufacturers often perform contaminant-reduction testing in lieu of product certification. Manufacturers may choose to forego certification because they are evaluating a new component supplier, or because regulations do not require them to obtain certification within a specific market for a given product type. Manufacturers typically choose full product certification when they want to publicly tout that their products comply with applicable industry standards, or when specific market regulations require them to obtain certification. Competition among manufacturers also plays a part, and companies are more likely to seek certification when their competitors do.

On its own, testing geared toward contaminant reduction, may not fully evaluate a product’s actual performance in the way that certification can. Third-party certification ensures that each product on the market has been properly evaluated against the appropriate industry standards, and therefore, also any required testing.

For manufacturers who feel contaminant testing is the only necessity to ensure a product's quality, product certification by an independent, third-party certification body, lends legitimacy in a variety of ways. Performance results can vary greatly when DWTU components are utilized within different systems. Through the product certification process, information is evaluated from various products against test data from a representative test unit, in order to determine which claims and performance results each product should bear.

Furthermore, testing alone does not evaluate the safety of the materials from which the product is constructed. It also may not verify that the product can sustain real-word plumbing pressure over time without leaking. For this reason, product certification can evaluate additional criteria to ensure superior product quality. This may include evaluations to determine low lead content in product materials, longevity testing of valves and diverters, safety float shut-off mechanism testing, and many optional evaluations that vary by product type.

In addition to rigorous testing, product certification evaluates product literature in order to ensure all certified claims have met the minimum industry standard requirements. Once companies go through this demanding process, they must retest their certified products regularly and submit to annual facility inspections to ensure that the products continue to meet or exceed industry standards.

Third-party product certification protocol also regularly evaluates production facilities in order to ensure that the facilities are in compliance with the industry standards. This includes on-site verification that the product being manufactured is identical to the product that was evaluated for certification, and that the product literature and claims are the correct version as approved during the certification process.

Many times, manufacturers need to change products, such as when they change material suppliers or production facilities. A certified product will be properly evaluated for every change, as it occurs, in order to ensure the change will not negatively affect test results. In an effort to remain current within industry standards, certified products must be re-tested on a regular basis. Re-testing ensures that the product remains compliant with the latest versions of industry standards, and that the product’s quality has not abated since the previous test.

The Water Quality Association (WQA) is one of several organizations that can certify water treatment products. WQA has been recognized as a leader in certification of drinking water treatment products for more than 50 years. WQA’s Gold Seal Product Certification Program is the oldest third-party testing program in the water treatment industry. The Gold Seal indicates to a consumer that a product meets industry-accepted levels for safety and proper function. More specifically, the certification provides assurance (a) that the product is constructed or formulated from safe materials, (b) that it will hold up under normal usage conditions, and (c) that any marketing claims displayed on the packaging have been verified through laboratory testing.

All products certified by WQA are tested at facilities approved by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) or Standards Council of Canada (SCC). These facilities are regularly audited for International Standards Organization (ISO), ANSI and SCC compliance. As a result, foregoing certification for contaminant-reduction testing only, potentially lacks the same high levels of facility evaluation, procedure review or even employee scrutiny.

WQA's Product Certification Program certifies a wide variety of products that may be used in the drinking water pathway. Anything that comes into contact with drinking water may be a candidate for certification. Certification is divided up into areas that cover various aspects of water treatment technology, including drinking water treatment units, drinking water system components, drinking water treatment chemicals, sustainable drinking water treatment products, low lead compliance, EPA Watersense, food equipment, bottled water and compliance with international standards.  

Kevin Kons is a Senior Project Manager in WQA’s Product Certification Department.