Manufacturers that currently participate in product certification programs understand the amount of documentation required to complete the process, but for companies that have never gone through an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) accreditation program for product certification, the multitude of steps can be very cumbersome. The steps taken by ANSI-accredited certification agencies may vary slightly, but all contain documentation, toxicological review, testing and facility assessment.
Certification agencies require prospective companies to complete several documents before the process can begin. Typical forms include a legal application, exploded diagram of the product, product data sheet, bill of materials, list of wetted parts and their formulations, installation/operation manuals, performance data sheet and data plate.
As evident by the amount of documents listed above, the process can become complicated very quickly, especially when manufacturers intend to certify entire product lines. After the certification agency has compiled all the requested documentation and ensured that it is correct, the certification process finally begins.
The certification agency’s toxicological department will review the product wetted parts list and material formulations of each wetted part along with the exploded diagram and bill of materials to determine the possible contaminants that may leach from product materials. During this review, the toxicological department may need to contact the companies’ suppliers to gather additional information about each material formulation. After the toxicological department has gathered all the information they require for the assessment, they will inform the laboratory of the test battery that is required.
Drinking water treatment units are typically required to pass three test categories: material safety (extraction), performance and structural integrity. The material safety test ensures that the product will not add harmful contaminants into the water. The performance tests ensure that the product will remove contaminants from the influent water as stated in their literature. Structural integrity tests ensure that the product will hold up under pressure and withstand water hammer that it may experience during its life. All three categories of testing are required for certification of drinking water treatment units.
ANSI-accredited certification agencies also require that the company’s production plant be inspected by the certification agency. The certification agency performs plant inspections to ensure that the company’s quality control system has measures in place that will allow the company to produce products in a consistent manner. The certification agency needs to be confident that the product tested by the certification agency is identical to the product being sold to consumers. The audits typically take one to two days to complete.
Performing all the required tests on a drinking water treatment unit can become very expensive. Certification agencies’ testing fees vary to some degree, but the significant amount of work required to complete all the different tests drives the testing fees into the thousands of dollars regardless of which agency is used. For example, Table 1 lists the approximate testing fees that would be applicable for the testing of a 10-in. filter with a flow rate of 0.5 gal per minute and a capacity of 1,000 gal, making performance claims of chlorine, particulate and lead reduction.
The table demonstrates that testing fees for a simple 10-in. filter making three performance claims become extremely expensive. This is one of the reasons that most certification agencies now accept test data from other ANSI-accredited certification agencies.
The Water Quality Association (WQA) has made a considerable effort to establish recognized testing agreements with other ANSI-accredited certification agencies that allow them the opportunity to accept test data that was generated outside WQA’s own laboratory. WQA has formal agreements with Underwriters Laboratories, Canadian Standards Association, and the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials. These agreements clearly define how each ANSI-accredited certification agency is allowed to use each other’s test data. WQA also has a well-established working relationship with NSF International so that test data can be used by either organization for product certification. It is important to note that each certification agency is responsible for the products it lists. Even with the agreements or working relationships that have been established, test data generated from other organizations may not always be accepted for certification.
Companies that intend to carry multiple certification marks on their product can now have them tested at one ANSI-accredited agency and use the data to obtain multiple certifications. It is common for companies to carry multiple certification marks, and now they can do so in an affordable manner. Before these agreements were established, companies were required to perform testing at each of the certification agencies’ laboratories. Because of this expense, most companies only carried one certification mark. Now, one set of test data can be used to obtain multiple certifications, which allows marketing departments to promote their product as being certified by multiple agencies, which provides additional consumer confidence in certified products, hopefully leading to additional sales.
The acceptance of test data is also important if a company intends to switch from one certification agency to another. With joint data acceptance, the company may not have to perform any additional testing to make the switch.
Even though ANSI-accredited certification agencies are competing for business, they recognize that the test data generated by other agencies have been done under strict quality control procedures and should be recognized as equivalent to their own testing. The recognition of each other’s test data gives companies more options for certifying their products. In a competitive environment, more options for the customer are always better then less.