Water Treatment Product Performance Claims & Certification

When choosing a water filter or softener it’s important to evaluate the product claims, certifications, and company reputability.

After all, you just want the best product on the market that does what it claims and gets you results.

In this article, we are going to go over the water industry product certification labels and standards so that you can understand exactly what the companies can claim.

Keep in mind that the certification process is expensive and time-intensive so most of the time the biggest companies will have an advantage in receiving certifications compared to smaller companies that may still have excellent products without certifications.

What’s The Purpose of Product Certification

The main purpose of getting a product certification is for the business to verify with an independent testing agency that the results they are claiming are accurate and verified by someone else.

This gives a company the rights to claim in their marketing that their product does certain things.  

For example, if the company claims that their water filter removes 97% of chlorine, hydrogen sulfide, and trihalomethanes how do you know for sure that they have done extensive water testing to ensure that this is in fact true?

That’s why companies get independent lab tests done with their products to gain certification standards which help ensure customers that their products are effective. 

The main certification agencies for point of use and point of entry treatment devices are the ANSI (american national standards institute), NSF, and WQA (water quality association).

At the least, if a company has spent the money and time to get their drinking water units certified by an independent agency like the NSF or WQA this shows you that the products are of high quality and do what they claim.

Does a Product Absolutely Need Certification to be Reliable?

In some of our reviews, you may find that a recommended product doesn’t specifically have an NSF 42, 44, 53, or other certification associated with it.

You may be wondering, shouldn’t all the top products be certified?

In a perfect world, all products would go through independent lab testing to show exactly what they filter out and how effective they are. 

In reality, it costs a lot of time and money to go through the product certification process and some smaller companies decide that it isn’t worth the time and money at the current time in their business. Once they grow, they may decide to invest in the certification process.

What this means is that a lot of the bigger well established companies with excellent products will have certifications but some smaller also excellent companies may not have certifications due to their size and investment capital.

The bottom line is that products with certification are always going to be reliable and accurate because they have been third party verified. 

On the other hand, this does not mean that other products which have excellent customer reviews and brand reputation are not high quality,  it just means that they did not invest in getting them certified and you will have to use your own judgement to determine if they are legit.

Drinking Water Treatment Unit Standards (DWTU) 

There are many different certification standards where each one verifies different performance and safety criteria. You can see the NSF’s full list here

The following ANSI/NSF standards cover six different kinds of water treatment devices:

  • Standard 42: This standard is for Drinking Water Treatment Units for Aesthetic Effects. It applies to different types of filters and adsorption units. It mainly covers contaminants that can affect the taste, color, and odor of your water. It also includes many of the EPAs secondary contaminants. The main devices it covers are activated carbon units and particulate filtration units. Contaminants like chlorine, taste/odors, chloramines, particulates, iron, and scale are the main contaminants it certifies for reduction levels.

  • Standard 44: This standard is for Cation Exchange Water Softeners. It covers residential point of use and entry units that are designed to remove water hardness and reduce other contaminants.
  • Standard 53: This standard applies to Drinking Water Treatment Units for Health Affecting Contaminants. It covers the contaminants that may impact human health negatively. The main types of units are activated carbon, ion exchange, and fine filtration. The main claims that are covered are cyst reduction, lead reduction, arsenic reduction, total trihalomethane reduction, and volatile organic chemical reduction.
  • Standard 55: This standard applies to Ultraviolet Microbiological Water Treatment Units. It consists of two classes of UV systems. One which has a UV dose level higher than 40,000 and the other 16,000.
  • Standard 58: This standard applies to Reverse Osmosis Water Treatment Units. Point of use RO systems usually have pre and post filters which can be certified by standard 42 or 53 but claims covered by standard 58 include reduction of heavy metals, arsenic, nitrates, and total dissolved solids (TDS).
  • Standard 62: This standard applies to Distillation Systems. Claims include reduction of many inorganic and microbiological contaminants along with some larger organic contaminants. If a distillation system is paired with a carbon device certified under 42 or 53 additional claims can be made.
  • Standard 177: This standard is for Shower Head Filters. It certifies that they reduce chlorine effectively.

Contaminants Addressed by Certification Standards

Below, you can see the contaminants that some of the standards address.

 NSF 42 (Taste, Color, Odor)

  • Bacteriostatic
  • Chloride
  • Foaming Agent
  • Sulfate
  • TDS
  • Chloramine
  • Chlorine
  • Hydrogen Sulfide
  • Phenol
  • Iron
  • Manganese
  • High pH
  • Low pH
  • Zinc
  • Scale control

NSF 44 (Softeners)

  • Barium
  • Radium 226
  • Performance

NSF 177 (Shower Filters)

  • Chlorine

NSF 55 (UV Filters)

  • Class A disinfection
  • Class B disinfection

NSF 62 (Distillation)

  • Arsenic
  • Hexavalent Chromium
  • Fluoride
  • Selenium
  • Barium
  • Trivalent Chromium
  • Lead
  • TDS
  • Cadmium
  • Copper
  • Mercury

NSF 58 (Reverse Osmosis)

  • TDS
  • VOC
  • Arsenic
  • Barium
  • Cadmium
  • Trivalent Chromium
  • Hexavalent Chromium
  • Copper
  • Fluoride
  • Lead
  • Mercury
  • Perchlorate
  • Selenium
  • Radium 226
  • Nitrate
  • Nitrite
  • Asbestos
  • Cyst
  • Turbidity
  • Trihalomethanes

NSF 53 (Health Affecting)

  • Fluoride
  • Nitrate
  • Nitrite
  • Radon
  • VOC
  • Asbestos
  • Cyst
  • Turbidity
  • Arsenic
  • Barium
  • Cadmium
  • Travelent Chromium
  • Hexavalent Chromium
  • Copper
  • Selenium 
  • Lead
  • Many more chemicals

How Does The Independent Testing Agency Certify?

Any of the water treatment devices that are certified to the standards above have to go through a process of evaluation. The following are the components that are evaluated:

  1. Performance
    • The testing agency tests and verifies the contaminants reduction claims in the standard
  2. Structural Integrity
    • The testing agency ensures that the unit can withstand water pressures in the home and evaluates both components and the complete system structure
  3. Materials
    • They run toxicological assessment and extraction of the systems materials that come in contact with water
  4. Literature
    • They review and accept that all the companies sales literature is in compliance with the certification and testing 

What Are Companies Able to Claim?

Companies who go through the process of independent testing and certification are able to make claims in their marketing materials that other companies cannot.

What can they specifically claim?

Basically, when a company obtains a certification standard like NSF 42 then it can claim multiple different functions like its contaminant removal performance and structural integrity that was proven.

For example, a seller of whole house carbon filtration units who received NSF 42 certification can make claims about performance (amount of chlorine removal), structural integrity (water pressures able to withstand), and safety.

You will see in the marketing materials of a product that has been certified that is removes 97% of Chlorine or 99% of Trihalomethane.

Companies that have not gotten their products certified cannot claim the specific percentage removal.

Most companies who go through the process of testing and certification will also attach a product performance data sheet or provide a label on their product which will show the test results and the certifications it can claim from those test results.

Below is an example of a performance data sheet from Aquasana’s Whole House Rhino Filter:

You can see the full data sheet here.

This performance data sheet shows that this Rhino filter met the requirements for Chlorine removal of 97%, so Aquasana is able to claim that they remove 97% of Chlorine in their marketing materials.

Concluding Thoughts

Now you know a little more about drinking water treatment unit standards. This will allow you to check to see if the product you’re interested in has any of the NSF/ANSI certifications and understand the claims that they are making on their marketing materials.

Just keep in mind that there are some excellent companies with great products that have not gone through the process of testing and certification due to the time and money involved. 

Always use your best judgement by looking at the company reputation, product reviews, if they have obtained any certifications, and your overall judgement about the quality of the company and products before purchasing.

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