Elastomers - National requirements for the use in drinking water applications
Elastomers are special plastics that are dimensionally stable but can be elastically deformed by mechanical forces. They are used in almost every component of drinking water distribution as seals and additionally in some other components as membranes.
Despite their small surface area, they are thus an integral and indispensable component in public distribution lines and drinking water installations.
Hygienic requirements for elastomers in contact with drinking water
Just like all other materials from which products in contact with drinking water are made, elastomers must also meet hygienic requirements.
We explain the general background to this on our page on "Testing and certification of materials and products in contact with drinking water in Germany".
The elastomer-specific material requirements here are based on the general principles of the Drinking Water Ordinance for materials and substances:
"Materials and substances used in the construction or maintenance of installations for the production, treatment or distribution of drinking water and which come into contact with drinking water must not directly or indirectly reduce the protection of human health provided for in this Ordinance, adversely modify the odor or taste of the water, or release substances into the drinking water in quantities greater than is unavoidable when the generally recognized rules of technology are observed." (TrinkwV § 17, para. 2 - this is not an official translation)
The Elastomer Guideline
At present, the requirements of the German Environment Agency's Guideline for hygienic assessment of elastomers in contact with drinking water (Elastomer Guideline), which was last updated on March 16, 2016, are applicable to elastomers.
The guideline also contains a positive list (german version only) of usable starting materials for the production of elastomers and can serve as a basis for the assessment of elastomers in contact with drinking water within the meaning of the Drinking Water Ordinance, but is not legally binding. However, this will change!
Evaluation criteria for plastics and other organic materials in contact with drinking water
The scope of the Evaluation criteria for plastics and other organic materials in contact with drinking water will be extended to include elastomeric materials with the planned 3rd amendment.
After publication of the amendment in the Federal Gazette, which is planned for the beginning of 2022, the requirements will enter into force on a binding basis after a two-year transition period, i.e. probably in 2024.
At this point, the Elastomer Guideline will be withdrawn and will no longer be applicable.
By this date at the latest, the suitability of elastomer products for drinking water hygiene can then only be demonstrated by a confirmation of conformity from an appropriately accredited certification body (e.g. in accordance with the recommendation of the German Environment Agency) or a self-declaration by the manufacturer based on corresponding test reports.
All test certificates issued on the basis of the Elastomer Guideline will lose their validity at this point in time at the latest.
Expertise and intensive technical-scientific work
The figawa working group "Elastomers" deals intensively with the resulting effects. Both manufacturers of elastomer components and manufacturers of end products, who then use these components in assembled products, are organized here.
In order to answer open questions and issues, technical and scientific research studies are also designed, financed and technically supported. The information gained is used to help shape regulatory requirements as a link between authorities, such as the German Environment Agency, and industry.
Among other things, the following aspects are considered in detail and technically accompanied:
- Substance requirements and positive lists
- Microbial growth on surfaces
- Special requirements for products in drinking water installations
- Special requirements for products in public water distribution systems
- Conversion factors of products
- Future harmonized European requirements
Figawa members are continuously kept up to date with the latest regulatory as well as technical knowledge through comprehensive information.