Debunking the Myth: What is Fed-Std-209E’s fate?

by Richard A. Matthews

Myth: US Federal Standard 209E is sacrosanct. It should be left alone.

Reality: US Federal Standard 209E is obsolete. It should be sunset. I was taught never to use a word without fully understanding its meaning. Therefore, offered for clarity, is the Webster's Dictionary definition of sacrosanct: “most sacred; inviolable ….”

Because of my involvement with the ISO Global Cleanroom Standards I am frequently asked, “What is going to happen to US Federal Standard 209E?” Many foreign nations use this document as a referee standard for the air cleanliness levels of their clean space — some as an adjunct to their own national standards and some as a substitute for non-existent national standards. It is not just a document used by United States organizations.

It is important to know its real power base, not its expanded perceived power base. US Federal Standard 209E is a US Government document required to be used only if one is doing business with a US Government agency, i.e., Department of Defense, Department of Energy, U.S. Army, etc. That is its base of power.

Industry chose to utilize US Federal Standard 209E as a referee document per agreement between buyer and seller for commercial contracts because no other viable industrial air cleanliness classification document existed in the US, and Federal Standard 209E (actually US Federal Standard 209 and its earlier iterations.) was already available. Using this document made it easy for industry. It should be noted that such industry use was and is clearly voluntary. Such use is its perceived base of power, both in the US and other nations.

The recent activity of the ISO Technical Committee ISO/TC209 “Cleanrooms and other associated controlled environments” has effectively and in reality made obsolete what is in US Federal Standard 209E. [See “ISO committee turns up the heat,” CleanRooms, December 1999, page 1.] In addition ISO/TC209 offers broader domestic and international appeal.

It is time to sunset US Federal Standard 209E, albeit with warm thanks for a job well done. The sunrise of the stronger ISO/TC209 is an apt, broader and beneficial replacement for the global cleanroom community.

By the way, the complete definition for sacrosanct from Webster is “most sacred; inviolable; —l often ironical.”

Richard A. Matthews is founder of Filtration Technology Inc. (Greensboro, NC) and president of Micron Video International. He is chairman of the International Organization for Standardization Technical Committee ISO/TC209 “Cleanrooms and associated clean environments,” and past president of the Institute of Environmental Sciences and Technology. He is on the CleanRooms Editorial Advisory Board.

Lead dog no longer

For years the US was the lead dog in the cleanroom world with its well written US Federal Standard 209 (currently 209E). However that document, last updated in 1992, has been bypassed by global events, some ironically instigated at the behest of the US through the Institute of Environmental Sciences and Technology (IEST).

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As the officially designated party responsible for keeping US Federal Standard 209 current and applicable, the IEST is allowed to derive income from the sale of this document. It can also be bought from the US Government Printing Office, the only other source. It is not a copyrighted document and therefore is easily machine copied.

ISO documents are copyrighted; it is illegal to machine copy such documents and give them away as is being done by some unscrupulous cleanroom community people. These new ISO cleanroom documents can be purchased for a nominal fee from the ISO in Geneva, Switzerland, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) in New York, or the IEST in Mt. Prospect, IL. The IEST should provide the quickest service because it is the official ISO Secretariat for preparation of these documents. Income to the IEST from the sale of ISO Cleanroom documents helps the IEST develop its industry-specific contamination control recommended practices, which address the non-generic issues not covered by ISO/TC209.

The US is fast becoming the tail on its own lead dog by not swiftly replacing its emphasis on Federal Standard 209E with leadership emphasis on the new ISO/TC209 14644 and 14698 documents. The IEST in particular is losing ISO document income while still fiddling with US Federal Standard 209E. — RAM


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