United States
                           Environmental Protection
                                 Office of Pollution Prevention
                                 and Toxics
                                 Washington, DC 20460
May 1995
EPA Standards Network Fact Sheet
                            Role  of Voluntary
  What are Voluntary
  Standards and Who
  Develops Them?
Federal government activities involve the use of products or services that must meet reliable
design and/or performance standards. Many of these standards are developed by the private
sector through standards developing organizations referred to as "voluntary" standards bodies.
The Federal government's participation in these standards bodies can provide incentives and
opportunities to develop standards that serve national needs in environmental, health, safety and
other areas. Government adoption of voluntary standards  can help reduce costs to Agencies and
Departments and also further enhances effective public-private partnerships.

Originally, the term "voluntary" distinguished the standards development process from govern-
mental or regulatory processes. Private sector standards that come under international trade
rules, or are referenced in specifications and contracts, are not voluntary in application.
Voluntary standards are also made mandatory at times by being incorporated into law by
governmental bodies.

A generally accepted definition of standards states that they are sets of rules, conditions or
requirements concerned with the definition of terms, classification of components; delineation
of procedures; specification of dimensions, materials, performance, design or operations;
measurement of quality and quantity in describing materials, products, systems, services or
practices; or descriptions of fit and measurement size. Voluntary standards can be used by any
person or organization, whether private or governmental.

International agreements, including the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) and
the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), define standards and international
standards-developing bodies  somewhat differently for the purposes of trade-related issues.

Voluntary standards are developed by industry, nonprofit organizations, trade associations, and
others. Examples of voluntary standards developers in the United States include the American
Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), The Society for Automotive Engineers (SAE) and
The National Sanitation Foundation International, Inc. (NSF). Examples of international
standards organizations include the International  Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the
International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). Within these bodies, standards-developing
groups, such as committees, boards and working groups, write, review and revise standards in
accordance with the procedures established by the standards body. ISO's Technical Committee
207 for Environmental Management Standards, for  example, is a  standards group.
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What Is ANSI?
Why Does the U.S.
Government Use
How Is EPA
Using Voluntary
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) maintains policies and procedures for the
development, review, and coordination of voluntary standards that are designated as American
National Standard; however, ANSI is not a standards developer. ANSI, headquartered in New
York, is the official U.S. member body to ISO and IEC, and its membership derives from
organizations, companies, and government agencies.

OMB Circular No. A-l 19 provides guidance to Federal agencies in working with, and using the
products of private sector standards organizations.  The circular sets a policy whereby the
Federal government, in its procurement and regulatory activities, is directed to:
     a.   Rely on voluntary standards, both domestic and international, whenever
          feasible and consistent with law and regulations pursuant to law;
     b.   Participate in voluntary standards bodies when such participation is in the public
          interest and is compatible with agencies' missions, authorities, priorities, and budget
          resources; and
     c.   Coordinate agency participation in voluntary standards bodies so that (1) the most
          effective use is made of agency resources and representatives; and (2) the views
          expressed by such representatives are in the public interest and, as a minimum, do
          not conflict with the interests and established views of the agencies.

EPA uses voluntary standards to support rulemaking compliance activities and partnership
programs with industry, such as the Environmental Leadership Program, Green Lights, 33/50
and the Common Sense Initiative.  Two examples of using voluntary standards to support rule
making include:

    In a final rule on degradable plastic ring carriers, EPA requires that ring carriers be made
    of degradable material. Rather than specifying a particular type of degradable plastic,
    EPA chose a degradability performance standard for ring carriers. To test the degradability
    of carrier rings, the EPA adopted two ASTM tests, specifically D-3826-91, Standard
    Practice for Determining Degradation End Point in Degradable Poly olefins Using a
    Tensile Test, and D-5208-91 Standard Practice for Operating Fluorescent Ultraviolet (UV)
    and Condensation Apparatus for Exposure of Photodegradable Plastics.

    In a proposed rule under the Clean Air Act Section 112(r), scheduled to be finalized by
    Spring of 1996, EPA proposed to require facilities who store extremely hazardous
    substances on site to develop risk management plans which demonstrate compliance with
    performance-based standards.
Where Can I Get
More Information?
For additional information, contact:
Mary McKiel
EPA Standards Network Coordinator
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
401 M Street, SW (OPPT-7409)
Washington, D.C. 20460
Telephone:  (202) 260-3584
Fax: (202)260-0178
                                                                           Marilyn Hernandez
                                                                           11 West 42nd Street
                                                                           New York, New York 10036
                                                                           Telephone: (212)642-4915
                                                                           Fax: (212)398-0023