By George Kupfer, Executive Liaison for Environmental & Public Health
Summary: Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL) joins the Water Matters column this month and will periodically contribute articles. Its involvement in certification for the water treatment industry has increased since 1996, when it was asked by the Water Quality Association to look at expanding its program to help break up what then seemed to be a certification “logjam,” slowing the time it took to get products to market. NSF International will return to the column next month.
A hallmark of UL’s involvement in the U.S. product safety system has been bringing the perspectives of all those affected by safety issues into the product certification process. The hundreds, perhaps thousands, of individuals who have participated as members of its Consumer Advisory Council, engineering councils and industry advisory councils and groups continue to be instrumental in helping to shape the direction of product certification at the organization.
Likewise, when launching its environmental and public health programs—including its Drinking Water Certification Program—UL convened an Environmental and Public Health Engineering Council in 1996 comprising 38 environmental health experts from across the globe. These individuals are government, regulatory, academic and consulting experts who meet annually to provide expert advice and recommendations to augment staff expertise concerning related programs, including the in-house program developed to provide one-stop product evaluation and certification to ANSI/NSF 60 and 61 for water products. This program addresses performance, health effects and life cycle testing of water products.
By late 1997, the organization determined that its environmental and public health programs would also benefit greatly by involving industry and user groups as it develops capabilities and programs. Accordingly, industry/user advisory groups were established specifically to provide a forum for environmental and public health customers and product users. The first such group for environmental and public health programs focused on the water industry with the establishment of the Water Industry/User Advisory Group in 1998. Members for this group were sought from major industry organizations whose main interest was the safety of products used in the water industry, product manufacturers, user groups who represented the purchasers of drinking water related products and experienced consultants to the water industry.
UL charged this new advisory group with to analyzing its water products program and service as a means to assess effectiveness and recommend improvements. The advisory group was also asked to identify additional industry needs for which the organization might possibly provide solutions. A final challenge was to identify special industry and user issues related to safety and health effects and to provide recommendations on how UL could work to develop the science and health effects data to better identify safety issues and improve product safety.
The Water Industry/User Advisory Group held its first meeting on Nov. 4-5, 1998. At this inaugural meeting, the members appointed Don Goodman of Oxy-Vinyls as group chairman and Dick Church of the Plastic Pipe and Fitting Association as vice chairman. The group also developed a mission statement that clearly and succinctly described its purpose:
“The Mission of the UL Water Industry/User Advisory Group is to represent and advocate the interests of the water industry and users to UL management.”
It further identified several areas members felt important to addresses and established sub-committees to focus on these. Within its first year, the advisory group and its sub-committees met six times, working on:
- Developing a management system to provide rapid and cost-effective results based on uniform and clearly defined standards,
- Facilitating communication and interchange of relevant information among users,
- Facilitating UL’s further involvement in health science/toxicity issues, and
- Addressing lack of uniformity among service providers when applying requirements.
Each meeting has been marked by intense discussion among members on how best to address safety concerns regarding water products. This very active group has probed these concerns in depth and utilized toxicological and health effects experts in addition to their own expertise in assessing these issues and developing its recommendations. The advisory group reported the following accomplishments and findings related to the issues and concerns at its a recent year-end meeting:
- UL is an acknowledged water safety participant,
- UL has provided support to the Water Industry/User Advisory Group and the industry,
- UL has hired Ann Marie Gebhart, Ph.D., toxicologist and former vice president of toxicology for NSF International, and is utilizing the services of Nina McClelland, Ph.D., chemist, consultant and past president of NSF.
- The advisory group is developing an idealized ANSI/NSF Standard 61 revision template that will be transparent, allow due process for reconciliation, and have clear end points and reasonable Maximum Allowable Levels (MALs) available for use by the standards users. Recommendations for standard revisions will be submitted to NSF International.
- NSF International has agreed to make its MALs available to help provide uniformity in interpreting its standards, particularly as they relate to materials safety.
- The advisory group discussed and identified health effects issues related to endocrine disrupters, tin stabilizers and others for cooperative UL/industry studies.
The advisory group has been of great value to UL with its analysis of all aspects of the company’s environmental and public health services and processes regarding water products evaluation and certification. Recommendations to meet the specific needs of the industry/user groups in the water product safety area are now being developed. Improvements that will result in a faster, more cost-efficient and user-friendly water products certification process are also under review. The process flow currently used by UL for water products certification is outlined in Figure 1.
Early in implementation of its Drinking Water Certification Program, UL recognized the substantial benefits of seeking ongoing analyses and recommendations by the expert serving on the Environmental and Public Health Engineering Council and the Water Industry/User Advisory Group. The development of superior service and meeting the needs of customers—users and regulators alike—remain a continuing goal as this and other environmental and public health programs evolve.
For additional information on the work of UL’s Water Industry/User Advisory Group, please contact George Kupfer at 847-272-8800, ext. 43946, or via e-mail at [email protected].
About the author:
George Kupfer is executive liaison for environmental and public health for Underwriters laboratories Inc. (ULUL), headquartered in Northbrook, Ill. His four years with ULUL was preceded by six years as chief operating officer (COO) for NSF International and 34 years as environmental health director and specialist for the city of Milwaukee. He has a master’s of science degree in industrial hygiene and environmental health and has 40 years of active participation in national and international professional environmental and public health organizations and committees. Kupfer can be reached at (847) 272-8800 x43946 or email: [email protected]