NSF certification is the gold standard for water treatment, but it’s also difficult to achieve. How do NSF standards translate to filtration performance? Is there a difference between certification and testing to NSF standards? Why do some companies forego certification? Here’s everything you need to know about these standards, so you can make an informed decision when you buy your next water filter.
NSF and NSF/ANSI Water Treatment Standards are Designed to Meet 5 Criteria
How are Products Certified?
The company submits an application that includes a parts list, user information and drawings. The application is reviewed by a team at NSF, and sample products are requested for testing. If the samples pass, NSF representatives audit the manufacturing facility and confirm product information.
This ensures production versions are identical to the tested sample products. The product undergoes a final technical evaluation. If it passes, it’s certified. Once the product is approved, the company’s facilities are audited every year to ensure the products maintain performance.
What’s the Difference Between “NSF Certified,” “Tested According to NSF standards” and “Certified to NSF Standards?”
NSF certified filters are tested by a third party according to NSF regulations. These products can use the NSF seal on their packaging, and their approval status is listed on the NSF website.
Other phrases like “certified to NSF standards” mean the product was tested according to the standard, but it wasn’t done by an approved third party. Naturally, any company doing internal testing is going to have biased results.
Even if the filter was tested by an outside company, there’s no way to tell if testing was conducted through the filter’s life, or it’s identical to the production filter. Even if a filter meets testing requirements when it’s new, performance may drop off or the filter will leach chemicals as it gets older.
Are Water Filters Legally Required to be NSF Certified?
The CDC and most state and local health departments recommend buying NSF certified filters. However, certification isn’t required. Small manufacturers often don’t certify their products, because it’s expensive.
California and Iowa have laws that require third party testing of water treatment products before they can be sold in these states. While they don’t always specify NSF testing, this is the de facto standard used by manufacturers.
What NSF Certifications Cover Water Filters?
Founded in 1944 as the National Sanitation Foundation, this non-profit organization changed their name to “NSF” when their scope extended to a range of products. Today, they provide standards and consumer education for food, water, automotive, aerospace, health care and construction products.
Although they started in America, this group currently operates in over 180 countries. The NSF released their first water filtration standard in 1973. Since then, they’ve expanded their testing to cover a wide range of home water filtration products with constant updates to address new technologies and breakthroughs in health research.
Most NSF water treatment standards are also approved by ANSI, the American National Standards Institute. Like NSF, they create standards for a wide range of products. Standards developed collaboratively by the NSF and ANSI are labeled “NSF/ANSI.”
Together, these agencies work with people involved in all aspects of the industry to develop standards. This includes industry representatives, government agencies, health officials, academic partners and regular citizens.