What are the Updates to the RoHS Regulation?

by Andy on January 4, 2012

RoHS As time goes on it seems like the amount of environmental legislation is only increasing. This is great for the environment, as we head towards a more eco-friendly future, but it can be difficult for businesses to keep up with all of the changes. Over the next few weeks we are going to look at some of the recent changes to environmental legislation around the world, starting today with RoHS II.

In 2008 we posted an article on RoHS, but much has changed since then. One of the biggest changes was the introduction of RoHS II on July 21st, 2011. Even though RoHS is based in the European Union, it has far reaching effects, changing the way goods are produced throughout the world.

RoHS stands for the Restriction of Hazardous Substances, and it is a directive specifically for electrical and electronic equipment (EEE). The first RoHS directive restricted the use of four heavy metals (lead, cadmium, mercury, and hexavalent chromium) as well as two brominated flame retardants (PBB: polybrominated biphenyls and PBDE: polybrominated diphenyl ethers). Eight categories of EEE were established for the first RoHS directive (as found at www.export.gov):

1. Large household appliances

2. Small household appliances

3. IT and telecommunications equipment

4. Consumer equipment

5. Lighting equipment

6. Electrical and electronics tools, with the exception of large-scale stationary industrial tools

7. Toys, sports and leisure equipment

8. Automatic dispensers.

The second RoHS directive has expanded the scope of the legislature in a number of ways. In particular the wording for the categories of electrical and electronic equipment has been changed, and new categories have been added. The original only classified an object as electrical and electronic equipment when its primary function depended on electromagnetic fields or electrical current; the revision opens it up to include any products that have at least one use that depends on those fields or currents.

Three new categories have been added to the RoHS legislation. The first two categories are medical devices and monitoring/control equipment. The third category is the largest change to the directive, “all EEE not covered by any other category”. Now RoHS affects almost every piece of EEE produced or sold in the European Union. There are some exemptions for items such as military equipment or photovoltaic panels as well as few others.

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