Is Halogen-Free Part of the Future?

by Andy on July 1, 2008

Lead Free RoHS Compliant Symbol It’s been almost two years since the birth of RoHS and now some people are pushing to add more hazardous substances to the list of restricted materials, and halogen is one of those substances but it doesn’t come without any great debate.

Some say that just like the hazardous materials listed under RoHS, halogen-free electronics should also be part of the environmental trend to go green. But others disagree and say that halogen in electronics doesn’t affect our environment either way.

According to Tim Jensen in his Halogen-Free blog, the industry seems to have defined halogen-free as being less than 900ppm of bromine (Br) and 900ppm of Chlorine (Cl).

Right now there aren’t any laws that require electronics companies to manufacture halogen-free products, but many companies including large corporations such as Intel are slowly going in the direction of halogen-free.

The other source of confusion for this topic is the difference between halogen-free and halide-free. I’m obviously not qualified to describe the detailed difference between the two but if you love chemistry and are interested in knowing the details, read Jensen’s blog article about the differences between Halogen-Free and Halide-Free. But here’s the cliff notes version of the differences. A halogen means fluorine, chloride, bromide, iodine or astatine is present. On the other hand, a halide is a compound that contains a halogen.

You’re probably wondering where halogen is used in the electronics industry. Well, as it turns out, halogen can be found in many flame retardants such as brominated flame retardants and polyvinyl chloride which is more commonly known as PVC. Halogen-free advocates believe these flame retardants (that contain halogens) are bad for both our health and the environment once the electronics have been thrown away, recycled, etc…

I’m sure this is just the beginning of the halogen-free debate as well as the question of other substances that could be considered hazardous. Here’s some more information if you’re interested.

· IPC has an informative site on halogen-free and brominated flame retardants

· Here’s an general article on Eco-Friendliness from GreenerComputing

· Apple’s environmental policies

· Intel’s lead-free and halogen-free policies

· Dell’s stance on brominated flame retardants

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