NSF - A Work in Progress

Water Quality Products invited Thomas J. Bruursema, general manager of the NSF Drinking
Water Treatment Unit Program, Ann Arbor, Mich., to provide an update of NSF’s initiatives in 2005.

WQP: NSF has supported the industry for more than 30 years with the development of national standards for the evaluation of most drinking water treatment technologies available on the market today. Your January 2005 predictions noted a number of new and expanding initiatives. We would like an update on those, but first, we would like to understand how this process fits within NSF.

Thomas J. Bruursema: NSF has a standalone department responsible for facilitating the overall development and maintenance of the NSF Standards. They are responsible for coordinating the consensus process, facilitating meetings, preparing draft documents, and meeting our accreditation requirements to ensure the final documents become American National Standards.

While there are many ways in which we invest in NSF to grow and strengthen our business, our investment in new and expanded standards is one of the most significant. As consensus documents, whereby the views and opinions of manufacturers, regulatory officials and users all need to reach harmony, the process can be extremely long and complex before reaching conclusion. When the final document is published however, it is one that NSF and all those involved can be sure is well founded in technical principles, ensures consumer protection, and establishes a high level of achievement for the industry. Most people know NSF for our testing services and certification mark, which is certainly the principal business of NSF, but none of that is possible without the foundation that is the NSF Standards.

WQP: We often hear of revisions to existing standards. What determines the need for a revision?

Bruursema: The NSF Standards undergo a fairly constant level of change. The reasons vary considerably. Many are purely editorial in nature, such as the recent restructuring of all the NSF Drinking Water Treatment Unit (DWTU) Standards to make them more user-friendly. Others are the result of new discoveries in how contaminants act, what forms they may take, and how technologies respond to such variability. The best example is arsenic. Years ago, little was known of the complexities with arsenic in terms of multiple valences. As we learned of these nuances, the standards had to be changed to address these complexities, ensuring that products bearing the NSF mark were truly able to meet their stated claims of arsenic reduction. Other changes occur to add new technologies, as the standards are very specific in the test methods based on the type of system being evaluated. Still, others are due to changes in regulated levels for specific contaminants, or for the addition of new contaminants.

In short, there are many reasons why the NSF Standards may need to be changed, and why no standard is free from regular updates and revisions. It is a long-term commitment by NSF and many members of our expert committees.

WQP: Most of the technologies available today are represented by existing NSF standards. Do you envision any new standards that would expand into other technologies?

Bruursema: You are correct, the majority of technologies available on the market are covered by an existing NSF Standard.

However, the market is under constant change and expansion and new technologies are never too far away. One example of a relatively new category that has experienced rapid growth is the shower filter market. In response, NSF developed NSF/ANSI Standard 177 Shower Filtration Systems – Aesthetic Effects that was adopted in September, 2004. This is perhaps a rather unique case, as it is not a “drinking water standard,” but clearly relates to water quality and treatment. It is a good example of how the NSF process is relatively flexible in its scope and consideration for expansion into new areas. This standard took approximately three years to complete, highlighting the significant investment that comes with new standards. In light of this investment and commitment of resources, we do not embark on the development of new standards for every new technology that comes along, but do give serious consideration to them. Fortunately, most can be made to fit into existing standards with some modification, shortening the time to establish requirements applicable to these products.

WQP: What can we expect to see from NSF in 2005 for new or expanded standards?

Bruursema: The following are several ambitious predictions I made for 2005.

Addition of Arsenic III to Standard 53. Currently, there are requirements for establishing a claim of Arsenic V reduction in Standard 53. Arsenic III will complement this claim, and make possible a more general claim for arsenic reduction when products can be shown to meet both Arsenic III and V. Manufacturers will also be allowed to carry certification to the individual forms of arsenic as an alternative. The test method for Arsenic III will be very similar to the Arsenic V reduction test method, with small changes due to the different valence state of the arsenic. Final approval of these requirements are expected by mid-2005.
Addition of Perchlorate to Standard 53. Perchlorate is already addressed for reverse osmosis technologies under Standard 58. The addition of the same under Standard 53 will address anion exchange resins, a technology that is widely used for perchlorate reduction. New test methods are being developed for both POU and POE anion exchange systems. A unique aspect of the method is the addition of competing anions to the challenge water. This will make the test more difficult, but is also representative of what these systems commonly encounter where there is perchlorate contamination. Validation of the proposed test method will begin soon, and the completion of this new addition is still on track for 2005.

Harmonization of material requirements for POE systems. There has been an effort underway for several years to harmonize the material safety requirements of the DWTU Standards with those of Standard 61 for POE devices. This effort has been especially complex because there are actually two different Joint Committees involved: 1) small community, commercial and municipal treatment technologies (Standard 61); and 2) POU/POE technologies (DWTU Standards). The Standard 61 Joint Committee will soon vote on a proposal to move POE systems into Section 8 of Standard 61. Pending their approval, the DWTU Joint Committee will then be asked to vote to reference Standard 61 for material safety of POE devices in the DWTU Standards. The voting by both committees is expected to wrap up by the third quarter of 2005.

New standard for mechanical reduction of bacteria and virus. This is a very complex and ambitious effort that has been underway for several years. It is divided into two separate but similar standards: 1) water that has been shown to be microbiologically safe; and 2) water that is microbiologically unsafe. Work to date has focused on the standard for microbiologically safe water. Development of the test method and related criteria has been completed. Pending a review of this protocol by the Joint Committee, validation testing is expected to be conducted later in 2005. A further issue to be worked out by the committee is establishment of acceptable product literature requirements to make the intended end use clear to consumers. If everything proceeds smoothly, the standard is expected to be adopted by late 2005.

WQP: How will companies be notified when these new standards are adopted?

Bruursema: NSF will announce the availability of the new standards and
new claims through press releases, NSF newsletters, NSF website and direct mail to all our clients.

WQP: How can companies become involved in the process of developing these or other new and expanded standards?

Bruursema: There are many active task groups that are looking for new members to assist in the effort. Meeting activities are posted on the NSF website at www.nsf.org/business/standards_and_publications/. We recommend companies look to see what areas of activity may interest them and then contact NSF for further assistance and information on joining these efforts.

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