RoHS exemptions may expire in July

by Scott Vigneault, on February 1, 2016

Screen_Shot_2016-01-31_at_10.19.25_PMAdopted in 2003, the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive has prohibited the use of six different hazardous substances in electronics manufacturing since it took effect in Europe in 2006. 

Barring certain exemptions, the rule applies to lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyls and polybrominated diphenyl ether. All of these substances are thought to have long-term toxic effects, even at low concentrations.

However, the exemptions have allowed numerous industries to continue operating normally. Manufacturers that use solders with high melting temperatures, for example, are not bound by restrictions on lead. Those that make fluorescent lightbulbs may use some mercury. There is a chance that all of this will change in July, though.

The exemptions to the RoHS directive were never meant to be permanent, and Electronics Weekly reports that several are being reviewed to see if they will be renewed. This has attracted some backlash for the industry. Chemical Watch reports that lightbulb manufacturers are asking the European Commission to maintain the exemptions. Otherwise, the industry would be forced to replace compact fluorescent lamps with LED lamps, which lack mercury.

More changes to the RoHS directive are in the pipeline in the coming years. By July 2019, four additional phthalates will be added to the list of restricted substances. Makers of medical devices and monitoring and control instruments will have an additional two years.

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