While plumbing standards focus on installation requirements, some standards for drinking water materials are health-based. Health-based standards apply to:
- drinking water treatment additives (disinfectants, etc.)
- drinking water treatment equipment/devices
- drinking water system components (pipes, fittings, valves, etc.)
Although these products and materials are not currently regulated at the national level, Health Canada requires that these products meet performance claims and are safe for drinking water.
To accomplish this, Health Canada works with national and international standard-setting organizations such as the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to develop health-based standards for materials and additives that come into contact with drinking water. Both NSF and ANSI are accredited by the Standards Council of Canada (SCC).
Founded in 1944, the NSF provides third-party testing and evaluating, in its own laboratories, of drinking water products and emerging technologies. Those products that meet their health-based standards are certified and allowed to bear the NSF mark. The BC regional health authorities and the First Nations Health Authority require all water systems (including small systems) use NSF-certified products in the construction of drinking water systems (including treatment systems).
The health-based standards that additives, components, and equipment must meet are primarily developed by NSF and ANSI and include the following:
NSF/ANSI/CAN 60 - Drinking water treatment additives - Health effects
NSF/ANSI/CAN 61 - Drinking water system components - Health effects
Health-based performance standards:
NSF/ANSI/CAN 53 - Drinking water treatment units - Health effects
NSF/ANSI/CAN 55 - Ultraviolet microbiological water treatment systems
NSF/ANSI/CAN 58 - Reverse osmosis drinking water treatment systems
NSF/ANSI/CAN 62 - Drinking water distillation systems
NSF/ANSI/CAN 372: Drinking Water System Components – Lead Content
There are two optional classifications when it comes to certification to NSF/ANSI/CAN 55 for ultraviolet (UV) light water treatment systems:
Class A systems (40mJ/cm2) inactivate or kill bacteria, viruses and protozoan cysts in contaminated water.
Class B systems (16mJ/cm2) reduce the amount of non-disease causing bacteria in disinfected drinking water (i.e., supplemental bacterial treatment of public or drinking water that has been deemed acceptable by a regional health authority). Class B systems may also 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/CAN 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). Due to the resistance of Adenovirus to UV, the BC Guidelines for Pathogen Log Reduction Credit Assignment only gives a 0.5-log virus reduction credit unless the Drinking Water Officer (DWO) does not consider the water to be at risk of human fecal contamination; in the latter case, a 2-log virus reduction credit is assigned for NSF 55 Class A UV systems.
NSF/ANSI/CAN 60: Drinking Water Treatment Chemicals - Health Effects sets minimum health effects criteria for water treatment chemicals. NSF/ANSI/CAN 60 is required in most U.S. states and Canadian provinces and territories to ensure the safety and suitability of chemicals used in the treatment of public drinking water supplies. It makes certain 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 systems comply with the NSF/ANSI/CAN 60 Standard.
NSF/ANSI/CAN Standard 61: Drinking Water System Components - Health Effects sets health effects criteria for many water system components including:
- 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
Certification to NSF/ANSI/CAN 61 ensures that the product meets the regulatory requirements for the U.S. and Canada. NSF/ANSI/CAN 61 testing covers all products with drinking water contact from source to tap, and determines what contaminants may migrate or leach from the product into drinking water. It also confirms if they are below the maximum levels allowed to be considered safe. The products certified to the above standard are considered to be safe for drinking water use.
The BC regional health authorities require treatment components in regulated drinking water systems comply with the NSF/ANSI 61 Standard.
NSF/ANSI/CAN 372: Drinking Water System Components – Lead Content verifies the lead content in drinking water products will meet the United States Safe Drinking Water Act and its lead-free plumbing requirements. NSF/ANSI/CAN 372 addresses lead content only for the wetted surfaces of pipes, pipe fittings and plumbing fittings.
The NSF/ANSI/CAN 372 standard includes:
- a maximum weighted lead content requirement of 0.25 percent (0.2 percent for solders and fluxes)
- a formula for calculating the weighted average lead content of each product prior to testing
- specific procedures for testing products for lead content.
Products covered under NSF/ANSI/CAN 372 are considered to be “lead-free” and safe for drinking water use. These include:
- Solder and flux fittings
- Water filters
- Water softeners
- Reverse osmosis systems
- Ultraviolet reactors
- Water meters
NSF also sets health performance requirements for residential/home point-of-use (POU) and point-of-entry (POE) systems which include:
- including adsorptive medias
- ion exchange
- reverse osmosis
- ceramic filters
- pleated filters
- ultraviolet (UV) light disinfection systems
- reduction-oxidation (redox)
- shower filters
POE systems are whole-house treatment systems that treat the water as it enters the residence (all the water in the home is treated). They are usually installed near the water meter (municipal) or pressurized storage tank (well water). Whole-house treatment systems include UV microbiological systems, water softeners or whole-house filters for chlorine, taste, odor and particulates.
POU systems treat the water where you drink or use your water. POU applies to faucet filters and reverse osmosis (RO) units for specific areas such as the kitchen faucet.
Some POE and POU systems reduce only one contaminant while others reduce many. For more information about POE and POU, see the Online Help Centre’s web page: Point-of-Entry/Point-of-Use Water Treatment.
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.
NSF Standards for Water Treatment Systems website: https://www.nsf.org/consumer-resources/articles/standards-water-treatment-systems
Home Water Treatment, NSF International - NSF standards for residential/home drinking water systems.