Vacuum cleaner standards update

For nearly 25 years the vacuum cleaner manufacturers have been working on the development of vacuum cleaner standards.

It has been a very productive program. There now are 24 vacuum cleaner standards and test methods. Vacuum cleaner manufacturers have spent many millions of dollars and tens of thousands of hours in developing these standards. Rather than developing these standards by themselves as an industry, vacuum cleaner manufacturers elected to undertake the program under the auspices of ASTM.

ASTM, organized in 1898, is the largest voluntary standards development system in the United States. It provides the administrative and publications forum for its standards developing committees.

ASTM does not have testing facilities or provide technical research. It utilizes a voluntary consensus standards system. Consensus means that standards are developed through the cooperation of all parties who are interested in the standard development.

ASTM requires that the membership of the vacuum cleaner committee have an equal number of non-producer members and members representing vacuum cleaner manufacturers. The former group includes consumers, representatives from government agencies, test laboratories, women’s magazine editors, family and consumer science educators and other people with a general interest in the product.

All of the technical standards have been subjected to extensive round-robin testing by the test laboratories of the manufacturers. This was necessary in order to be assured that each test laboratory was able to achieve the same results within a certain degree of accuracy.

Laboratories also conducted tests to determine what effects various changes in the test procedure–such as using different technicians–would have on the standards. ASTM requires that once a standard has been finalized and adopted it must be reviewed every 5 years. Consequently, some of the vacuum cleaner standards have been updated and improved as many as three times since initial publication.

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The most important and innovative of the vacuum cleaner standards is the one on the removal of embedded dirt from carpets. It is the most innovative because the test method is based upon results obtained in in-home clearing tests.

The test method was fashioned to duplicate the same relative cleaning results among various types, brands and models of vacuum cleaners as was obtained in the in-home tests, which were conducted in various parts of the country. The vacuum cleaner cleanability standard has been adopted by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), which identifies and recognizes nationally accepted standards.

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In view of today’s interest in indoor air quality, a word about the work being done on a vacuum cleaner dust-emission standard is worthy of mention. In the late 1970s, an ASTM vacuum cleaner task group on environmental safety investigated the subject of dust emissions from vacuum cleaners.

The task group consisted of Corwin Strong of the National Institutes of Health and other environmental experts. The task group concluded: “Based on research (including evidence gathered and data)…this Task Group is of the opinion that exhaust-particulate emission from dry pick-up filtration household vacuum cleaners are not harmful and, therefore, an emission standard is not required.”

A new ASTM vacuum cleaner filtration task group was formed in 1990 to restudy dust emissions and to review the position established earlier. The initial meeting of the newly formed task group was attended by representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency and from Research Triangle Institute.

After studying various filtration test methods and reviewing the original ASTM position on vacuum cleaner dust emissions, the new task group concluded the original position is valid. However, it recommended that a standard test method on filtration efficiency be developed so as to be able to measure filtration advertising claims. Such a standard is now under development. A fifth draft is being reviewed.

The vacuum cleaner industry is immensely proud of the work it has done in conjunction with consumer/general interest representatives in establishing standards on vacuum cleaners. The standards that have been established are not makeshift affairs and the industry is confident they can withstand challenges.

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