NSF Standards

Introduction

Small water systems are required to ensure that their water treatment systems and components meet certain NSF standards.

NSF International was founded in 1944 as the National Sanitation Foundation as an organization devoted to public health safety and protection of the environment. Today, the NSF International is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and reorganized as a leading independent third-party certification and testing organization for products that affect water quality and food safety.  

The NSF has developed public health and safety standards by collaborating with experts from the regulatory, manufacturing, academic, scientific research, and consumer industries. These standards provide the basis by which product manufacturers can demonstrate the quality, reliability and performance of their products, and through which buyers, consumers and health officials can be assured of their safety and benefits.

Glossary of Terms
corrosion

The gradual decomposition or destruction of a material due to chemical action, often an electrochemical reaction. Corrosion starts at the surface of a material and moves inward.

cryptosporidium

A waterborne intestinal parasite that causes a disease called cryptosporidiosis in infected humans. Symptoms of the disease include diarrhea, cramps, and weight loss. Cryptosporidium contamination is found in most surface waters and some groundwaters. Commonly referred to as "crypto."

disinfection

The process designed to kill or inactivate most microorganisms in water, including essentially all pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria. There are several ways to disinfect, with chlorination being the most frequently used in water treatment.

filter media

Materials, such as sand or activated carbon, that purify water as it passes through the filter.

finished water

Water that has passed through a water treatment plant; all the treatment processes are completed or "finished." This water is ready to be delivered to consumers.

giardia

A waterborne intestinal parasite that causes a disease called giardiasis (GEE-are-DIE-uh-sis) in infected humans. Symptoms of the disease include diarrhea, cramps, and weight loss. Giardia contamination is found in most surface waters and some ground waters.

potable water

Water that does not contain objectionable pollution, contamination, minerals, or infective agents and is considered satisfactory for drinking.

protozoa

Single-celled organisms with a more complex physiology than viruses and bacteria; average diameter of 1/100 mm.

ultraviolet (UV)

In water treatment, a specific wavelength of light produced by a device used for disinfection.

virus

A very simple life form that only multiplies inside the living cells of a host; average diameter of 1/10,000 mm.

The NSF maintains its own state-of-the-art laboratories where new water products and emerging treatment technologies can be tested according to NSF standards. The products that pass the NSF evaluation are certified and allowed to bear the NSF mark, indicating that the product materials, structural, and performance claims are assured to be safe and effective to use in drinking water systems.

The BC regional health authorities and the First Nations Health Authority require NSF-certified products be used when building a drinking water system.  The NSF standards commonly applied to drinking water systems are briefly discussed below. More details can be found at the bottom of the page.

Health Canada is involved in the development of health-based standards designed to safeguard drinking water by helping to ensure the material safety and performance of products that come into contact with drinking water. These types of standards are primarily developed by NSF International/American National Standards Institute and include the following:

  • NSF/ANSI 55: Ultraviolet Microbiological Water Treatment Systems
  • NSF/ANSI 60: Drinking Water Treatment Chemicals – Health Effects
  • NSF/ANSI 61: Drinking Water System Components – Health Effects
  • NSF/ANSI Standard 372: Drinking Water System Components - Lead Content
  • NSF/ANSI Residential Drinking Water Treatment Standard
NSF/ANSI Standard 55: Ultraviolet Microbiological Water Treatment Systems

There are two optional classifications when it comes to certification to NSF/ANSI 55 for ultraviolet microbiological water treatment systems:

  • Class A systems (40mJ/cm2) may claim to disinfect water that are contaminated with pathogens (e.g., a virus or protozoa)
  • Class B systems (16mJ/cm2) are designed for supplemental bacterial treatment of public or drinking water that have been acceptable to a local health agency. Class B systems may claim to reduce normally occurring nuisance microorganisms. 

For small water systems, the BC regional health authorities generally recommend that the UV systems are certified to NSF/ANSI 55 Class A Standard to deliver a minimum dose of 40 mJ/cm2 for achieving a 3-log (99.9%) inactivation of protozoa (i.e., Cryptosporidium and/or Giardia).

NSF/ANSI Standard 60: Drinking Water Treatment Chemicals - Health Effects

NSF/ANSI Standard 60: Drinking Water Treatment Chemicals - Health Effects sets minimum health effect criteria for water treatment chemicals. It ensures that chemical contaminants and impurities that may be indirectly imparted to drinking water will not exceed the approved levels in finished water. The chemicals certified to the above standard are considered to be safe for drinking water use. Common water treatment chemicals include

  • Corrosion and scale inhibitors
  • Coagulants and flocculants
  • Disinfection and oxidation chemicals
  • pH adjustment, softening, precipitation and sequestering chemicals
  • Well drilling aids
  • All other specialty chemicals used in drinking water treatment

The BC regional health authorities require chemicals used for regulated drinking water system must comply with the NSF/ANSI 60 Standard.

NSF/ANSI Standard 61: Drinking Water System Components - Health Effects

NSF/ANSI Standard 61: Drinking Water System Components - Health Effects sets minimum health effect criteria for water system products. It ensures that the product materials used for drinking water will not leach nor migrate from the product into the drinking water and exceed approved levels in finished water. The products certified to the above standard are considered to be safe for drinking water use. Common water system components include

  • Protective barrier materials (cements, paints, coatings)
  • Joining and sealing materials (gaskets, adhesives, lubricants)
  • Mechanical devices (water meters, valves, filters)
  • Pipes and related products (pipe, hose, fittings)
  • Plumbing devices (faucets, drinking fountains)
  • Process media (filter media, ion exchange resins)
  • Non-metallic potable water materials

The BC regional health authorities require treatment components in regulated drinking water system must comply with the NSF/ANSI 61 Standard.

NSF/ANSI Standard 372: Drinking Water System Components - Lead Content

NSF/ANSI Standard 372: Drinking Water System Components - Lead Content verifies the lead content in drinking water products will meet the U.S. Safe Drinking Water Act, which requires that the lead content level in wetted surface of pipes, pipe fittings, and plumbing fittings does not exceed 0.25%. The products certified to the above standard are considered to be “Lead free” and safe for drinking water use.

NSF/ANSI Residential Drinking Water Treatment Standards

NSF also sets health performance requirements for residential point-of-use (POU) and point-of-entry (POE) systems, including adsorptive medias, ion exchange, reverse osmosis, ceramic filters, pleated filters, ultraviolet (UV), distillation, reduction-oxidation (redox), and shower filters.

Private residential drinking systems are not regulated by the BC Ministry of Health. However, it is strongly recommended to implement NSF-certified products to minimize potential health hazards. 

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