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Through its treatment and distribution, drinking water comes into contact with many products and materials that can have an impact on its quality. Treatment additives are used to make the water safer (e.g., disinfectants to inactivate microorganisms), drinking water system components are used to carry the water to the consumer (including pipes and fittings), and drinking water treatment devices are used to treat the water, often at the point of consumption (e.g., pitcher-type water filters, reverse osmosis units). Some of these products and materials are used and/or installed by municipalities, while others are purchased by the general public.
Although these products and materials are not currently regulated at the national level, Health Canada recognizes the importance that they be effective and safe. To that effect, Health Canada works with national and international standard-setting organizations to develop health-based standards for materials that come into contact with drinking water.
Some standards for drinking water materials are health-based, while plumbing standards focus on installation requirements. Health Canada is primarily involved in the development of health-based standards for all types of drinking water materials and of health-based performance standards for drinking water treatment devices.
Health-based standards have been designed to safeguard drinking water by helping to ensure the material safety and performance of products that come into contact with drinking water. These types of standards are primarily developed by NSF International/American National Standards Institute, and include:
Certification organizations provide assurance that a product or material is safe by testing them to ensure they meet the applicable standards. In Canada, the following organizations have been accredited by the Standards Council of Canada to certify drinking water devices and materials as meeting NSF/ANSI standards:
Health Canada does not recommend specific brands of drinking water treatment devices, but it strongly recommends that consumers look for a mark or label indicating that the device has been certified by an accredited certification body as meeting the appropriate NSF International (NSF)/American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards.
These two documents in our Water Talk series explain the use of two different types of drinking water treatment devices in your home or, in the case of disinfecting drinking water, when you are out hiking or camping in the wilderness.