Protocol certifies products effective at decreasing microcystin from blue-green algae in drinking water to below EPA health advisory levels

ANN ARBOR, Mich. Global public health organization NSF International has developed a test method - NSF Protocol 477: Drinking Water Treatment Units Microcystin - that verifies a water filter’s ability to reduce microcystin to below the health advisory levels set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The first products to earn certification to the protocol are Access Business Group’s eSpring models 100185, 100188 and 100189 and Coway Co., Ltd. models CIFN11-PLUS, CIFN11S-PLUS, CIFN14-PLUS, CIFN8-PLUS and CIFN85-PLUS.

Microcystin is the most common type of cyanotoxin, a group of chemical contaminants formed by blue-green algae. Warm weather along with the right nutrients in lakes, such as phosphates from agricultural runoff, create the perfect environment for the exponential growth of blue-green algae, also known as harmful algae blooms or HABs. HABs can lead to toxic concentrations of cyanotoxins, especially microcystin, that can overwhelm public water treatment systems. The presence of HABs have been identified across the globe from Lake Erie in the United States, to Lake Koetshuis in the Netherlands, to Lake Taihu in China.

Exposure to unsafe levels of microcystin concentrations through drinking water or recreational water use, such as swimming, have been known to cause a wide range of symptoms including fever, headache and vomiting as well as liver and kidney damage in more severe instances. Microcystin exposure for pets, either through drinking or ingestion, can also produce serious health risks.

“Certification to NSF Protocol P477: Drinking Water Treatment Units Microcystin is important to Coway because cyanotoxin blooms involving microcystin are a global public health concern,” said Sanghyeon Kang, Research Division Director, Coway, Co. Ltd. “We can now offer solutions to help people with impacted water supplies.”

The public health risk posed by cyanotoxins has led legislators in the U.S. to pass a bill requiring the EPA to develop and submit to Congress a strategic plan for assessing and managing risks associated with cyanotoxins in drinking water provided by public water systems.

NSF International developed the microcystin test protocol at the request of regulatory agencies concerned about communities with elevated levels of microcystin in the lakes and rivers that serve as their primary source for public drinking water. Water filters certified to NSF Protocol 477: Drinking Water Treatment Units Microcystin are designed to provide an additional barrier of protection against microcystin and to supplement the treatment of municipal drinking water. If the water utility notifies the public of a cyanotoxin event, people using the municipal water system should always follow the instructions from the utility even if a certified filter is in place.

To earn NSF International certification, water treatment systems including water filters must undergo extensive testing to confirm that they meet the strict requirements of NSF/ANSI 53, an American National Standard for drinking water treatment units. In addition to verifying that the system is structurally sound, NSF verifies that:

  • The contaminant reduction claims such as microcystin reduction shown on the label are true.
  • The system does not add anything harmful to the water.
  • The product labeling, advertising and literature are not misleading.

To make a microcystin reduction claim, a water filter must be able to reduce microcystin to below the EPA health advisory limit for infants and young children which is currently set at 0.3 parts per billion. Products must be retested periodically and re-certified every year, which ensures that products continue to meet all requirements over time.

There are plans to expand NSF Protocol 477 to include requirements for other cyanotoxins such as anatoxin-a and cylindrospermopsin in the future.

“This is a very important issue to NSF International as we have been developing national standards, testing and certifying drinking water treatment technologies for more than 70 years,” said Clif McLellan, Vice President of Water Systems at NSF International. “With the availability of NSF Protocol 477: Drinking Water Treatment Units Microcystin, manufacturers now have a way to demonstrate to consumers that their water filters can effectively reduce microcystin to below EPA health advisory limits and provide an additional barrier to cyanotoxins over and above treatment by the municipal water utility.”

For more information about NSF Protocol 477: Drinking Water Treatment Units Microcystin please contact Rick Andrew, Global Business Development Director of Water Systems at NSF International at andrew@nsf.org.

Editor’s Note: To schedule an interview with Stefan Buck, Business Unit Manager, Water Systems, NSF International, please contact Liz Nowland- Margolis at media@nsf.org or +1-734-418-6624.

About NSF International: NSF International is a global independent organization that writes standards, and tests and certifies products for the water, food, health sciences and consumer goods industries to minimize adverse health effects and protect the environment (nsf.org). Founded in 1944, NSF is committed to protecting human health and safety worldwide. Operating in more than 165 countries, NSF International is a Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization Collaborating Center on Food Safety, Water Quality and Indoor Environment.

NSF led the development of the American National Standards for all materials and products that treat or come in contact with drinking water. Today, all major plumbing codes require certification to NSF standards for pipes and plumbing components in commercial and residential buildings. NSF International is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).