I get a lot of questions from friends like that. What's AAMI? Whose this Joint Commission? What happens at ISO? What does IAHCSMM stand for? You probably get these questions too. Usually for me the toughest thing is remember what the letters stand for, since we hardly ever refer to these groups by anything but their acronym. Of all these, ASTM International (formerly known as the American Society of Testing and Materials) might be the one least known by those in healthcare. The short answer to the question what does ASTM do would be: just about everything. I often say a hospital is like a little city with a couple of dozen different businesses all operating under one roof. This is true for ASTM in spades. During a Standards Week (and they have them all the time) groups as diverse as Medical Device (F04) and Floor Coverings (D03) can be meeting.
In short, ASTM is where experts in a given field meet to develop consensus methods for testing stuff. Many issues have to do with product safety, or performance. There is a committee dedicated just to Sustainability (E60), but then many Technical Committees also have subcommittees dedicated to the issue of sustainability in their particular industry. When it comes to health care there are a number of key committees. I participate in a few of them, including D12 (Detergents), E35.15 (Microbiocides), F04 (Medical Devices), F02 (Flexible Packaging), D10 (Packaging) and Water quality (D19). But this is hardly the only groups that matter to healthcare. There's a committee on Adhesives (D14), for instance, which has some standards important to healthcare. I could give dozens of examples just like that.
So next time some asks, what does ASTM do, the easiest answer might be: astm.org