NSF Launches New Indoor Air Emissions Certification for Office Furniture

NSF International, a not-for-profit organization, announced the launch of a new air emissions certification program, which will initially certify for low volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions of office furniture.

VOCs, such as formaldehyde and aldehydes, are chemicals emitted by a wide array of products, including paints, building materials and furnishings, copiers and printers. VOCs may cause eye, nose and throat irritation, headache, nausea and skin problems, but higher concentrations may cause irritation of the lungs, damage to the liver, kidney or central nervous system. This new certification program directly addresses these concerns.

"Numerous interior furnishing products have been introduced into the market claiming a variety of environmental attributes," said Dr. Kurtis Kneen, director of NSF's Chemistry Laboratory. "End users have been requesting help in order to understand the environmental benefits of each product and to be able to compare products using a consistent basis of measurement. Having standards in place that define and identify low-emitting furniture will assist manufacturers in communicating and end users in understanding environmental and sustainability related product benefits."

BIFMA standard

The new certification program is based on a Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association (BIFMA) standard for Formaldehyde and TVOC Emissions of Low-emitting Office Furniture Systems and Seating -- ANSI/BIFMA M7.1.

"BIFMA identified a need for an open, consensus-based, and publicly-available test method and standard for low-emitting furniture products. Having NSF incorporate American National Standard Institute (ANSI) standards into their program is further verification of that market need," stated Thomas Reardon, executive director, BIFMA International, a non-profit trade association of furniture manufacturers and suppliers that promotes sustainable work environments and business practices.

ANSI/BIFMA M7.1 defines requirements for VOC emissions from office furniture classified as low-emitting products. The standard also:

* Provides requirements for the emissions of VOCs from office furniture.

* Specifies acceptance levels that define low-emitting furniture independent of construction materials, manufacturing processes, mechanical designs, or aesthetic designs.

* Applies only to newly manufactured products.

Annual monitoring through audits will ensure ongoing compliance. In addition to obtaining NSF Certification and the right to use the NSF Mark on products or in literature, certified products can also be used to earn Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) credits for building projects that specify the use of low-emitting furniture. LEED Certification is a nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings.

BIFMA Test Method

BIFMA also developed a standard test method (BIFMA X7.1-2007) in conjunction with the standard to determine a long-term (14 days) VOC emission from office furniture. Testing in support of the NSF Certification program will follow this standard test method. The test method identifies VOC emitted and determines the emission rates for individual compounds and total VOC. These data are then used to determine whether the furniture tested meets the acceptance criteria for VOC emissions.

To provide testing services to the BIFMA standard test method, NSF has established a partnership with Materials Analytical Services Inc. (MAS), an independent, privately-held microanalytical firm specializing in environmental consulting and testing.

"Over the past five years, MAS has worked directly with BIFMA and several other trade organizations to advance the science of dynamic product emissions testing as a means to improve indoor air quality in both today's buildings and tomorrow's ever greener buildings," said Martin Bennett, senior consultant with MAS. "Our partnership with NSF will significantly raise the bar for consumers, manufacturers, planners and architects as the reliable source for delineation and certification of low VOC emitting furniture."

For more information, contact NSF International at http://www.nsf.org.

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