Volume 44 Number 9
China -- A Changing Landscape for Manufacturers and Certifiers
China is a market that has the attention of many manufacturers across a broad front of industries, including that for drinking water treatment units (DWTU).
The interest is twofold. First, China is well recognized as a leading country in the manufacture and export of goods. Last year, China was the sixth leading exporter of merchandise at $266 billion. Second, China has a population of over 1.2 billion people, making it the sixth largest importer of goods at $244 billion. When compared to 2000, China was the only country to see growth in both imports and exports. In addition, an estimated 38.6 percent of the rural population and 75 percent of the largest cities have unsafe water, with an estimated annual impact on human health of $3.9 billion. In short, you quickly realize the potential of this market.
In this year’s first quarter, resulting from China’s WTO accession, a series of regulatory changes were adopted. Several government bodies were reorganized, and several others were created. These changes impact both certification organizations and product manufacturers.
A newly created agency, the Certification and Accreditation Administration, is responsible for all product certification organizations and systems registrars (those offering registration to ISO 9000 and other ISO standards). Of greater significance to product manufacturers, and a benefit to certifiers, is the expected reduction in the issuance of false certificates through the oversight of this new administration. False certificates and standard marking have been significant problems in China. Similar to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the recognized accrediting body in the United States for third-party product certifiers, the administration will closely monitor activities and post details on the accreditation of all certifiers.
Another newly formed agency will have its impact on product manufacturers. The China Quality Certification Centre (CQC) is now responsible for issuance of certificates and the China Compulsory Certification Mark. Effective May 1, 2002, the first series of product categories was required to apply through the CQC for approval. While this first series of product categories doesn’t include performance certifications of DWTUs, it does address many electrical devices including electrical certification for home appliances. The new process of certification applies to both products marketed domestically as well as imported. Beginning May 1, 2003, only products recognized by CQC as certified will be allowed for importation or sale in China. For a more complete listing of affected products and a brief overview of the new regulations, visit CQC’s website (see: www.cqc.com.cn).
The seven categories are as follows:
DWTUs are assessed against the requirements of items 2 and 4 above. Item 1 establishes the general parameters and criteria of individual contaminants, much like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) Primary Drinking Water Regulations. These same criteria form the basis of acceptance for all subsequent testing, similar to the ANSI/NSF DWTU standards relying upon USEPA, Health Canada, and other regulations to establish pass/fail levels.
Item 2 specifies the requirements for all materials in contact with drinking water. Similar to Standard 61, materials are tested individually. In the case of DWTUs, both the individual materials and the complete system are tested. All material testing is conducted with a single 24-hour exposure. A series of chemical parameters are established similar to those of the ANSI/NSF standards. In addition and consistent with their general sanitary standard for drinking water, there are requirements for microorganisms. The extraction water cannot contain more than 100 total bacteria per milliliter (ml) and no more than three E. coli/ml.
Finally, Item 4 addresses the performance claims of the DWTU. The basic criteria are as follows:
The evaluation procedure differs across three product categories including general devices, mineralizers and reverse osmosis (RO) devices. By definition, common devices and RO units are for the removal of harmless substances from the drinking water to improve quality, according to the standard, while the mineralizer standard is for those devices that enhance the mineral content of the drinking water. Each type of device has its individual function test, i.e., performance evaluation for stated claims. There are no structural requirements for these devices.
Process of certification
In the case of locally manufactured goods, testing is first performed in the applicable provincial laboratory where the manufacturing plant is located. This information then feeds into the national approval process for those goods planned for national sale in China.
The MOH reviews product certification requests through a committee structure that meets once every quarter. The test reports and products are evaluated at that time. If approved, a license to manufacture and distribute is issued.
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