Volume 44 Number 11
The Role of ANSI in Drinking Water Product Standards, Testing and Certification
The American National Standards Institute -- more commonly referred to as ANSI -- is an organization often referred to, but not so well understood. In fact, it plays a very important role in drinking water, as it does in many other fields, both domestically and internationally. A better understanding of ANSI can provide a valuable asset to the drinking water treatment device industry -- also known as the point-of-use/point-of-entry (POU/POE) water treatment industry -- and another important sales tool for many companies.
A structure for harmony
The organization’s primary responsibility is to administer and coordinate the U.S. voluntary standardization and conformity assessment system. To put it another way, it is the watchdog for those organizations who claim to write consensus product standards (“voluntary standardization”), and those who provide third-party certification services against such standards (“conformity assessment”) such as NSF International.
The acceptable process for developing an American National Standard must properly address consensus, due process and openness. In the case of NSF drinking water treatment unit (DWTU) standards, these are accomplished primarily through the committee structure, with the NSF Joint Committee on Drinking Water Treatment Units at the hub. This committee is comprised of equal representation from the industry, public health and user communities. Each has approximately 12 seats on the committee. The process often involves input from many others, as provided through sub-committees or task groups. The ultimate decision and voting rights, however, reside with the joint committee. As a consensus body, there must be general agreement for the standard to move forward. This ensures that no one segment of the stakeholders is able to overly influence the outcome of the standard.
Once a standard is developed by an ANSI accredited standards writing organization, that standard must then be further subjected to a review by ANSI. This review includes a public notice for comment. At the successful conclusion of this process, the standard is able to be identified as an American National Standard and carry the ANSI designation. There are over 15,000 such U.S. standards today, as written by more than 175 accredited organizations.
Similar to accredited standards writing organizations, accredited third-party certifiers are audited by ANSI for a fee to ensure they’re following the practices and procedures specified under ISO/IEC Guide 65. While ISO/IEC Guide 65 is a general set of requirements, ANSI goes a step further and accredits organizations for specific fields of scope. For example, NSF is accredited by ANSI as a third-party certifier in many fields, including:
Included in this additional step of assessment is evaluation of both the administration process of certification and the supporting laboratory operations. In the case of the laboratories, compliance with yet another international standard must be demonstrated, ISO/IEC 17025 General Requirements for the Competence of Testing and Certification Laboratories.
As with product manufacturers that choose not to have their products certified, not all testing organizations are able or willing to achieve ANSI accreditation. It’s a voluntary process. The benefit to those organizations who do achieve ANSI accreditation, and to the companies whose products they certify, is immediate recognition domestically and internationally for following accepted standards of practice and quality. There’s a growing number of users and public health agencies that rely in total, or give preferential acceptance, to those products that are certified to established standards by an ANSI accredited certifier. Similarly, acceptance of test data and certifications internationally is often dependent upon the certifiers compliance with ISO/IEC Guide 65. Today, there are a total of 32 ANSI accredited certification bodies.
For more information regarding ANSI, including a complete listing of accredited standards writers and certification bodies, visit its website at www.ansi.org
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