Commission consults on RoHS Directive

A consultation on the revision of the list of applications exempt from bans on using hazardous substances in electrical equipment was issued by the European Commission in May.1

Under the EU Directive on the restriction of hazardous substances (RoHS) in electrical equipment lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium and two families of brominated flame retardants - polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) must be eliminated from production processes by July 2006. But an annex lists applications and components which are exempt because alternatives were not available at the time the Directive was adopted.

The Directive requires the Commission to update the annex regularly, and in the case of four controversial applications, to decide "as soon as possible" whether they should be changed.

Two - the use of mercury in fluorescent tubes and lead in solder for computer and network infrastructure - enjoy exemptions, and the review will decide whether these should end.

The others - the use of deca-BDE in plastics and lead in light bulb glass - are not exempt and the revision will decide whether this should change.

Deca's fate will be decided once an EU risk assessment of the chemical is completed (ENDS Report 351, p 55 ). The Commission has funded a study to inform the debate on the other applications.

Industry groups have asked for other applications to be made exempt, including the use of lead in high-temperature solders and lead-bronze bearing-shells, lead and cadmium in optical and filter glass, and all of the substances in fire-fighting equipment.

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