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From the Editor’s Desk
The Trade Association and the Technical Committee

The 100th anniversary celebrations of ASTM International’s technical committees just keep coming, and with them, in the pages of SN, some very interesting lessons about our everyday world. This month, we learn about something I can guarantee each and every one of you reading this appreciates: the durability of clay pipe used as sewage conduits. As feature article author Edward Sikora, writing for centenarian Committee C04 on Vitrified Clay Pipe, puts it, “let a sewer stop functioning for a few hours and you will see just how essential our sanitary sewer systems have become.” By standardizing vitrified clay pipe, one of the oldest of the many materials used as sewer pipes, Committee C04 has made a significant contribution to the clean-smelling air and safe drinking water supplies we take for granted.

Reminders such as this of the role ASTM standards play in the rarely considered corners of our lives put me in mind of 1998, the year ASTM celebrated its own centennial. Back then, I was features editor of this magazine, and was responsible for acquiring articles from ASTM technical committees highlighting the contribution of their standards to the industries they serve. Throughout the ASTM centennial year, volunteer authors from the technical committees, none of them professional writers, did a wonderful job connecting the “dry” content of standards to the real world around us, and to their impact on the global marketplace.

The specifics of each committee’s history is a microcosm of what makes the voluntary consensus standards system remarkable and what makes it tick. ASTM’s founding committee, A01 on Steel, Stainless Steel, and Related Alloys, was born of Charles B. Dudley’s conviction that companies competing in a free market could actually benefit from coming together to talk about ways of making their products better and safer — an idea almost unheard-of at the time. At the turn of the 20th century, Committee D04 on Road and Paving Materials standardized roadway surfaces using stakeholders who’d been expertly (but each in their own way) building roads with “seat of the pants” engineering, thereby paving the way for safe and durable road networks around the world. The standards development of Committee D01 on Paint and Related Coatings, Materials, and Applications was bolstered early on by in-situ research on paint samples on a bridge in Maryland. Cooperative competition, the participation of industry experts, the connection between research and real-world application — these are just some of the hallmarks of consensus standardization, and all can be found in the hidden histories of ASTM International’s technical committees.

Committee C04, featured in this issue, gained much of its strength from its partnership with the National Clay Pipe Insitute, of which author Sikora is president. The trade association and the ASTM technical committee have worked closely together for many years, the former perfecting clay pipe technology, and the latter making sure the right standard was available when the technology became available to the marketplace. So take a deep breath of some fresh air; take another sip of that clean water, and consider the impact of Committee C04 on your daily comfort.

Maryann Gorman
Editor in Chief

Copyright 2004, ASTM International