By Alexandra Aronin and Grisha Deitch
Summary: Regulatory bodies in Israel have recently stepped up efforts to make drinking water for domestic use a high priority. By issuing a set standard for all to follow, dealers know beforehand what criteria need to be met and residents can be more assured of their water’s quality. An overview of the legal process is provided here.
Recently, a large number of water treatment systems have been sold in Israel for domestic (home) use, despite the official position of the Ministry of Health that the quality of tap water in Israel complies with regulatory requirements. Still, hundreds of thousands of residential drinking water treatment systems have been purchased, a remarkably huge number when compared to the country’s size and population.
This phenomenon is due to the “aggressive” campaign directed at the “poor quality” of drinking water in Israel that was organized by manufacturers and importers of water treatment systems. Due to lack of controls in how they sell their products, dealers weren’t ashamed to claim even false properties of these systems; for example, making unsubstantiated assertions of purification of water from viruses and prevention of diseases. Such a situation in the market required intervention of various regulatory bodies.
Standard SI 1505
Israeli Standard SI 1505, Part 1 “Drinking Water Treatment Systems for Domestic Use-Filtration and Purification: Systems Except Reverse Osmosis Systems” (July 1998, Amendment No. 1, 2001) was developed by the technical committee (TC) of the Standards Institution of Israel (SII). The TC included representatives from the Manufacturers Association of Israel, SII, consumer organizations, government, Chamber of Commerce and Mekorot, the national water company.
The standard is based on ANSI/NSF 42-Drinking Water Treatment Units: Aesthetic Effects, ANSI/NSF 53-Drinking Water Treatment Units: Health Effects and ANSI/NSF 55-Ultraviolet Microbiological Water Treatment Systems. SI 1505, Part 1 covers packaging and labeling requirements, manufacturers’ declarations of the manner of filtration or purification, materials and means of filtration or purification, test methods and requirements for electrical safety, hydraulic function, filtration and purification efficiency including microbiological tests.
Recently, the TC has prepared a draft of SI 1505, Part 2 “Drinking Water Treatment Systems for Domestic Use-Filtration and Purification: Reverse Osmosis Systems.” SI 1505, Part 2 is an adoption of ANSI/NSF 58-2000 Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water Treatment Systems, after additions and changes.
The approach to writing standards by SII technical committees is similar to the approach accepted by the standardization bodies recognized by ANSI. The rules for standards’ writing require that the TC include materially affected parties, consumer representatives and government representatives. The rules preclude presentation of members of each sector numbering more than a third of the total committee number. The rules also require the import dealers association sector be represented in the TC, in contrast to other standardization policies. After the standard preparation, the draft is published for public review. Every member of the public may consider a draft and send their comments to the TC.
After the standard draft review process, which takes about 1-½ months, the TC considers all the comments, revises the standard accordingly and issues the final standard version. The refused comments may be referred to the Central Standards Committee (CSC), which acts as an appeals court. The TC that developed SI 1505 acted under the CSC for water quality. The CSC established the composition of the TC.
In 1999, the standard SI 1505, Part 1 was declared to be an official Israeli standard. According to the Standards Law, when a standard is declared official in Israel, “no person shall produce, sell, import or use, in any way whatsoever, a commodity the specification of which has been defined as official standard, unless such a commodity conforms to the requirements of the standard.”
The Standards Law authorizes the Commissioner of Standardization for the enforcement of the conformity of commodities to the official standards’ requirements. Thus, it reads, “the Commissioner of Standardization may, at any reasonable time, carry out inspection in order to examine whether the provisions of the Law are complied with, enter any place where he has reason to believe that a commodity the specification of which has been defined as an official standard is produced or kept, and take a sample of any commodity for the purpose of checking…”
There were two main reasons for making the standard official. First, some filters bore no labelling of origin or of manufacturer; this included both imported and locally manufactured products. There were no means for identifying suppliers of systems of unknown production (sometimes one-time occasional imports). Second, the Ministry of Health required follow-up of the quality of the water where it’s treated after the tap.
In the current situation, since the standard’s requirements are based on the manufacturer’s claims regarding performance of the product, the filters must be checked as to whether performance conforms to claims.
Regarding the Israeli standardization policy, the advantage of the requirements lie in their transparency, which is very important for international free trade and competition. These Official Standards are, at first, prepared by voluntary public committees. They’re published in the Israel Official Journal and various catalogues and, after their status is official in the Free Import Order—which is used to approve imports via Certificates of Conformity.
Among producers, Israel drinking water systems are manufactured by Mei Zurim Ltd., Mei Rave Ltd., Tana Industries Ltd. and Ha-Mezakech Ltd. Some of the systems are certified under the SII Standards Mark. The SII operates a product certification scheme to assist consumers in identifying products conforming to Israeli Standards. The Standards Mark Program operates in accordance with EN 45011 quality rules. To qualify for the Standards Mark, a product must conform to requirements of the applicable standards and be manufactured in a plant with an approved quality assurance system, similar to ISO 9002.
The implementation of NSF standards 42, 53 and 55 in the Israeli consensus standard 1505, Part 1 have settled the Israeli market of drinking water treatment systems for domestic use. Declaration of SI 1505, Part 1 as official allows regulatory bodies to provide open and transparent enforcement. First results of the enforcement confirm the need for permanent enforcement of SI 1505 in the Israeli market of drinking water treatment systems. The Ministry of Industry and Trade continues to provide the enforcement of SI 1505 in the framework of the Standards Law.
The author would like to thank Grisha Deitch for her valuable assistance in compiling this article.
About the author
Alexandra Aronin, M.Sc., is senior coordinator for standardization with Israel’s Ministry of Industry & Trade. She can be reached at +972-2-622 0603, +972-2-623 6303 (fax) or email: firstname.lastname@example.org or website: http://www.tamas.gov.il/tamas_en.asp.
Grisha Deitch, M.Sc., is commissioner of standardization with Israel’s Ministry of Industry & Trade. He is a member of the Directorate of the Standards Institution of Israel, the chairman of the Standards Mark Board and a member of the Central Standardization Committee. Deitch is also a member of the Director’s Board of the National Authority for Laboratory Accreditation. He can be reached at +972 2 622 0602, +972 2 623 6303 (fax), email: email@example.com or website: http://www.tamas.gov.il/tamas_en.asp.
FYI—Doing Business in Israel
To find out more on this topic, see the following websites:
• Israel Export Institute: www.export.org.il/IsraelExportInstitute/
• Standards Institution of Israel: www.sii.org.il:81/neweng/eng.htm
• Manufacturers’ Association of Israel: www.industry.org.il/frameeng.html