Viewpoint: Dirty little secret

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Two cleanroom myths have uncovered a surprising problem, a dirty little secret, so to speak, among contamination control professionals.

One myth is that new cleanroom standards from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO; Geneva) have little influence, and the other is that this industry tends to focus and rely on current information.

Why would contamination control professionals believe the publication of ISO standards is unimportant? If this is your belief, please let me know why. Send an e-mail to me at [email protected]. Your identity will be kept confidential.
The myths were debunked in these pages by Richard A. Matthews, chairman of the ISO Technical Committee (ISO/TC 209), Cleanrooms and Associated Clean Environments, and founder of Filtration Technology Inc. in Greensboro, NC. They are as follows: “The new ISO standards will not affect me. They are someone else’s problem,” [see “International standard headed for shore,” CleanRooms, May 1999, p 42] and “People always listen to and learn from current information” [see “You’re in trouble!” p 46].

Both of these columns deal with the new ISO cleanroom standards, the first of which (14644-1) has already become mandatory in the European Community, superseding individual European national standards. If your company does business in Europe, this standard affects you. It has also been adopted in parts of Asia. The remaining ISO cleanroom standards are in various stages of development. But you can expect the next 18 months to see the majority of them finalized.

Both of the columns devote space to explaining the standards and what they cover, as well as how they can be expected to affect contamination control professionals. What’s interesting in comparing the two is the difference in tone between them. In the first one, written by Matthews upon publication of ISO 14644-1 in May 1999, the tone is tutorial, much like what you’d expect from a mentor or experienced peer explaining the importance of changes to come. In the second column, by contrast, written just after an industry meeting in November 1999 during which Matthews ascertained how ill-informed many professionals remained concerning ISO/TC209’s activities and progress, the tone is, well, perhaps dictatorial rather than tutorial. It might even contain some gentle sarcasm.

Why the change in tone? The early column is full of the excitement and enthusiasm that accompany the significant accomplishment of standards publication. The second column, written six months later, contains the frustration you might expect to follow an industry gathering that proved your message has yet to be received, much less understood.

Unless I’m missing something, which I hope your e-mail messages will explain, you need to know what standards the ISO is publishing on your behalf. At the risk of becoming the Homer Simpsons among high-tech professionals, it’s time to stand up and take notice.

George D. Miller
Editorial Director


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