Product Certification Articles

Safety Expectation: How Can Manufacturers Meet Them?

As a consumer, you expect the products you purchase to be safe. You expect the dishes on your dinner table to be safe for food service. You expect shampoos and body soaps to clean your hair and skin without harming your body.

The same expectation applies to drinking water treatment systems and components. It is expected that the quality of water that comes in contact with a treatment system will improve. A consumer would not buy a filter thinking that it could add contaminants into the drinking water, rather than remove them. That’s where material safety testing and certification comes in to play. How can a manufacturer of drinking water treatment products guarantee material safety? Simple. NSF/ANSI 61 product testing and certification.

What is NSF/ANSI 61?

NSF/ANSI 61 is the standard used by the drinking water industry that focuses on a product’s material safety. It tests and evaluates products that come in contact with drinking water, drinking water treatment chemicals, or both, to ensure that they do not leach any harmful contaminants into the water. The list of contaminants is made up of organic materials/pesticides, regulated metals, inorganic materials, and radionuclides. This list can be found in the standard, along with the allowable, or safe, limit of each contaminant.

The standard is divided into six sections for the various product types it covers:

  • Section 4: Pipes and related products – such as fittings, couplings and hoses
  • Section 5: Barrier materials – such as coatings and paints, linings, liners, constituents of concrete and cement-mortar
  • Section 6: Joining and sealing materials – such as gaskets, adhesives and lubricants
  • Section 7: Process media – such as activated carbon, ion exchange resins, gravel and sand
  • Section 8: Mechanical devices – such as chemical feeders, valves, water meters and pumps
  • Section 9: Mechanical plumbing devices – such as faucets, drinking fountains and supply stops

Why Should You Consider Product Certification?

Most companies approach a product certification body—an organization that provide the testing and certification to the standard—due to customer requests, regulatory requirements, or as a way to market their product against their competitors. Once a product has passed testing and becomes certified, it is listed on the certification body’s website under the manufacturer’s name. Certification listings are an ideal place for companies and consumers to find the certified products they need.

How Does a Product Become Certified?

If a manufacturer is interested in having one or more products certified to NSF/ANSI 61, it can contact any of the certification bodies that are approved to provide certification to that standard. The Water Quality Association (WQA), Underwriter Laboratories (UL), International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO), Canadian Standards Association (CSA) and NSF International are the main certification bodies within the drinking water treatment industry.

A manufacturer will be required to fill out the necessary forms for the certification body it decides to work with. Typically the certification body will require the manufacturer to complete a data sheet, which provides specific information on the product, including type, model name, size range, and, as applicable, flow rate, water contact temperature and media density. A wetted parts list, or formulation sheet for process media, will be needed as well. These forms tell the certification body exactly which company is responsible for supplying each part or ingredient (used in process media), what materials comprise the part or ingredient, and how large the surface area of the part or ingredient is.

The certification body will take these documents and perform a review of the product information. This review will determine what is needed for testing, the exposure and analysis methods according to the standard, and the formal costs for the project. If the manufacturer decides to proceed with the project, it will submit the required test samples and testing will begin. An auditor will also contact the manufacturer to set up an inspection at the manufacturing facility. Literature and packaging will be reviewed as needed, ensuring that no false claims are made regarding the certification. Once the testing is complete, contaminant concentrations will be evaluated, and if everything passes, certification will be granted and the product will be listed.

What Does NSF/ANSI 61 Testing Entail?

NSF/ANSI 61 testing is an extraction test, meaning products are tested to determine what contaminants the product can remove.  Products that have adsorptive or absorptive media must be tested with and without media. Test samples will be exposed to the most severe condition(s), determined during the review, for a specific amount of time immediately after washing or the appropriate conditioning of the product is completed. The extraction water will either be held in the product, or the product will be placed in an exposure vessel filled with the appropriate amount of extraction water. The different sections for the varying product types require different testing specifications and are followed accordingly.

Who Should Manufacturers Contact for NSF/ANSI 61 Certification?

As stated above, there are five main certification bodies that perform product testing and certification area for the drinking water industry. Manufacturers can go to any one of these certification bodies and learn more about its process.

If you are interested in learning more about the testing and certification process for NSF/ANSI 61 with the Water Quality Association, please send an email to goldseal@wqa.org or visit www.wqa.org.

Product safety is important no matter what industry a manufacturer is in. Fortunately, the drinking water industry has a means to verify a product’s material safety through the NSF/ANSI 61 testing and certification process. Is it costly? Yes. Does it take time? It sure does. But is it worth it? Absolutely.

Amy Reichel is a Marketing & Communication Specialist with the Water Quality Association a not-for-profit association for the residential commercial, and industrial water treatment industry.