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

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.


Continuing to Make Lead-Free a Reality

by Andy on July 1, 2010

As you probably know, lead has been prohibited by law in such industries as paint, automobile fuel, food cans, automobile body solders, light bulbs, and plumbing solder and fixtures due to damaging health and environmental effects. However, lead is still allowed in soldering electronics within the United States. But, because lead is on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s list of hazardous materials, lead-free solutions are becoming increasingly popular to reduce the risks.

Kester Lead Free Solder

In July 2006, the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (RoHS) went into effect in the European Union. The regulation is often thought of as the “lead-free directive,” but it also restricts the use of mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyls, and polybrominated diphenyl ether.

RoHS, as well as other attempts to reduce hazardous materials in electronics, are driven to solve the issue of consumer electronics waste. Assuming they are recycling, American consumers often send their old electronics to landfills in countries such as China and West Africa, harming the workers at these job sites with heavy metal poisons.

We’re getting closer to making lead-free soldering a normal practice today. When the idea was first introduced, almost 100 lead-free alloy configurations were being analyzed. After much testing, only a dozen are being used today. The tin/copper alternative has the best scores for use in bar solders, and the bismuth/tin/silver alloy is best among paste solders.

Today, several companies have successfully incorporated lead-free soldering into their assembly and have also utilized an efficient implementation plan. Realistic guidelines for the inspection process (to recognize acceptable soldered joints and create a rework process) is an integral part of this development.

Still need more information about lead-free solder? Kester has devoted part of its website to the cause, in order to increase awareness and offer possible solutions to help solve the issue. In addition, Kester offers several lead-free products including solder wire (Kester KWLF27500 being the most popular), solder bars, and solder paste.


REACH Chemicals

A couple months ago, we addressed ROHS (Restriction on Hazardous Substances) which primarily dealt with a EU restriction placed on products that contained one of six heavy metals that are considered hazardous to human health and the environment.

The European Union is now addressing another concern, hazardous chemicals and substances within the EU. This new directive (law) has been named REACH which stands for Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals.

So what is REACH?


REACH is a new European Union law that restricts the use of certain chemicals that may cause harm to human health or harm to the environment. The program tests new and existing chemicals to be able to provide safety information about a specific substance.

The legislation took seven years to pass and was entered in June of 2007. REACH will be implemented in phases over the next 11 years.

Who does REACH affect?


Anyone who manufactures or imports chemicals or chemical mixtures in to the European Union in the amount of one metric tonne or more per year must register the substances with the European Chemicals Agency.

What chemicals are included in REACH?


The chemicals included in REACH will expand as the implementation continues. All new chemicals must be tested before they can be marketed, and authorities are currently testing existing substances. The European Chemicals Agency expects 30,000 phase-in substances (existing chemicals) to be registered in the first 11 years of REACH; plus a number of non-phase-in chemicals (new substances).

Toxic Chemicals What’s the reasoning behind REACH?


As mentioned above, the main reason for the directive is to protect human health and the environment. With REACH, authorities will get a better understanding of the effects of commonly used chemicals; they will be able to provide detailed safety information about a particular chemical. According to the European Commission, in 1981 there were 101,106 chemicals used in the European Union and only 3,000 chemicals have been introduced since then. It is estimated that 1,500 substances may be considered “substances of very high concern,” i.e. CMRs (carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic to reproduction), PBTs (persistent, bio-accumulative and toxic) and vPvBs (very persistent, very bio-accumulative).



Resources for additional information:


European Chemicals Agency

EUROPA – Portal Site for the European Union

REACH in brief – .pdf


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


RoHS Compliance Costs a Pretty Penny

by Andy on June 16, 2008

Lead-Free Area Sign RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) has been around for almost two years now. If you are not aware, RoHS is the ban on six substances (lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyls and polybrominated diphenyl ether) in electronics equipment in the European Union.

According to an article on, RoHS has cost the electronics industry over $32 billion, and that’s just getting started. It’s estimated to cost around $3 billion just to maintain compliance with RoHS.

Here are some things to keep in mind with RoHS:

  • The cost of RoHS will continue to increase. With the possibility of adding more substances and getting rid of exemptions, compliance will just become more costly.
  • About 29% of companies say they lost sales because of RoHS.
  • On the more positive side of things, RoHS helped many companies reorganize by improving their supply chain process and reevaluating their product lines; some companies have even reported increased market share.
  • Many electronics companies are reporting more inventory than usual. This is probably because many companies had to carry both RoHS compliant and non-RoHS compliant goods and now they are stuck with the non-RoHS compliant items.

The article on the cost of RoHS is pretty interesting, regardless of your involvement with RoHS.