Guest Column | September 6, 2023

The Vital Role Of The NSF Health Advisory Board In Protecting Public Health

By Kelly Magurany


NSF/ANSI/CAN 60 and NSF/ANSI/CAN 61 are the mainstay health effects standards that many industry experts know and trust to provide certification of drinking water treatment chemicals and contact materials. However, did you know that the drinking water acceptance criteria for chemical safety included in these standards are supported by an equally dynamic standard, NSF/ANSI/CAN 600, and an independent advisory group known as the Health Advisory Board (HAB)? The HAB comprises globally renowned toxicology experts representing state and federal regulatory agencies, academia, and industry scientists and is chaired by the U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) Office of Water. Established in the 1990s, the HAB provides public health and safety guidance supporting NSF drinking water health effects standards and chemical risk assessment peer reviews for NSF/ANSI/CAN 600 criteria updates. This board of dedicated volunteers carries many responsibilities to ensure that these trusted standards continue to protect public health.

The Sentinels Of Health Effects Standards

The HAB differs from certification bodies in that it primarily focuses on the potential health effects of drinking water contact chemicals rather than product efficacy or performance claims. The HAB operates independently and is incognizant of the chemical risk assessment impact on product certification. This allows the chemical-specific criteria development to focus entirely on protecting public health. Additionally, the HAB proposes, reviews, and accepts scientifically rigorous methods for performing chemical risk assessments that impact drinking water, health sciences, and food certifications. They also provide guidance on emerging human health risk assessment topics to the PHC (Public Health Council), the overarching advisory group for developing and updating all NSF standards.

Standard Evaluation

The HAB critically evaluates the risk assessment procedures outlined in NSF/ANSI/CAN 600, which facilitates the development and maintenance of robust drinking water criteria. In addition, this provides a standardized approach for conducting sound chemical risk assessments that significantly reduce the potential for unintended bias. NSF/ANSI/CAN 600 covers safety criteria for more than 2000 chemicals included in NSF/ANSI/CAN 60 and NSF/ANSI/CAN 61. If criteria for a chemical have not yet been established by the U.S. EPA, Health Canada, or other authoritative bodies, it is developed through NSF/ANSI/CAN 600 procedures. The HAB’s biannual meetings provide the forum to peer review chemical risk assessments that inform drinking water criteria. NSF/ANSI/CAN 600 procedures and the many decades of specialized toxicological expertise represented on the HAB — including in pathology, genetic toxicity, general toxicology, reproductive and developmental toxicity, risk assessment, and chemical safety — provide confidence that the resulting criteria protect public health.

The HAB’s Role In The Industry

The water industry is complex, involving many moving parts to deliver safe drinking water to the public. NSF’s HAB is a critical player that helps in this process by evaluating and determining safe levels of chemicals for drinking water. Overall, the work by the HAB provides the foundation for risk assessment procedures and public health protection currently found in NSF/ANSI/CAN 600, 60, and 61, and this prestigious board will continue to carry out their work with public health as their focus.

Kelly Magurany is Senior Manager of Toxicology at NSF and Secretary of the Health Advisory Board.