China RoHS Regulation Overview

China RoHS phase I entered into force in 2007.  Phase II hasn’t really fired up yet.  MIIT – which is China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology — has indicated that RoHS 2 will be notified to the World Trade Organization (WTO) Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Committee following the current public comment period, as reported by Holland & Knight; that period ended without ado in August 2010.  The stated MIIT goal is to finalize RoHS 2 by the end of 2010. It is possible, per recent MIIT feedback, that MIIT will endeavor to have RoHS 2 enter into effect within one year of promulgation.

This means that if RoHS 2 were finalized by the end of 2010, we could possibly see RoHS 2 in effect – with labeling and information disclosure requirements applicable to the new scope of products – by the end of 2011 or early 2012.  Interestingly, Taiwan put up a new web site earlier this year to present an English-speaking version of its toxic substances control initiatives and laws.  And China released an updated version of its REACH-like chemical law earlier this year.
One requirement of China RoHS Phase I was that companies indicate on product labels whether a product contain specific restricted materials. The second phase will restrict specific substances in products.  In fact, according to China RoHS, all items shipped to China must be marked to indicate whether items contained therein are compliant or noncompliant with China RoHS.  No small order.

The Electronic Information Products (EIP) logo or other label is used to mark parts and assemblies that do not contain unacceptable amounts of substances identified by the regulations, and that are environmentally safe. (Units that do contain hazardous substances are marked with the EIP logo including an Environment Friendly Use Period [EFUP] value in years.)

There are six substances now considered environmentally hazardous by China RoHS:

* Lead
* Mercury
* Cadmium
* Hexavalent Chromium
* Polybrominated Biphenyls
* Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers

EU RoHS vs. China RoHS. In 2006, the China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology or MIIT circulated the long-awaited “Management Methods for Controlling Pollution Caused by Electronic Information Products Regulation” (usually called “China RoHS”). China RoHS was developed separately from the EU regulations and is, as written, more strict in many ways. Manufacturers, importers, and some retailers fall under its scope.

China RoHS is similar to EU RoHS in that it restricts certain hazardous substances in consumer products and in packaging materials. However, the China RoHS is different from its EU counterpart in a few significant ways.

China RoHS takes on:

  1. automotive medical devices
  2. manufacturing equipment
  3. components
  4. electronics
  5. radar equipment
  6. certain raw materials
  7. packaging materials

However, China RoHS doesn’t take on home appliances and toys (although components of these products often have to comply).
China RoHS labels. However, the exact time-frame for this second phase has not yet been revealed. So far, there are four types of marks or labels required on products:

  1. A label indicating whether any of the six hazardous substances – lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, PBB, or PBDE – are present in the product. If they are present, another label is needed that indicates the “Environment-Friendly Use Period” (EFUP) – the date until which the hazardous substances will not leak or cause environmental pollution.
  2. A table in the manual, packaging, or documentation of the product that shows which hazardous materials are in the product and which components contain the materials. This is a much stricter requirement than the EU RoHS and may require additional testing and product research to determine.
  3. The type of packaging material used needs to be described on the outside packaging.
  4. If a EFUP label is needed, a date of manufacture must be clearly marked on the product.

There are differences between the EU and China RoHS regulations. The China regulations make everyone in the supply chain responsible for noncompliance, while only importers, manufacturers and some retailers are subject to penalties in the EU version. The China RoHS also requires more disclosure – the Certificates of Compliance from suppliers adequate under EU regulations may not be enough. If you ship affected products into China, the product will need to be tested by one of the approved labs in China and will need CCC accreditation (China Compulsory Certification). Testing for compliance might be very extensive, too; you may need to test not only every component of your product, but also the materials in every component.

Some companies are wondering if China RoHS will really be enforced. China’s record of enforcing anti-counterfeiting and intellectual property laws, for instance, isn’t the highest rated in the global landscape. And yet, it’s risky to assume that China RoHS won’t be enforced. China RoHS is written as more strict than its EU counterpart — and enforcement is random — but how thoroughly it is thus far being enforced is difficult to assess.

Timing of China RoHS Phase II. The first phase of China RoHS compliance – a phase which involves “mark and disclosure” processes for products – was implemented in February 2007. China’s Ministry of Information Industry (MII) is defining RoHS compliance in that country and may head the RoHS compliance testing. So far, the MII has not mentioned any exemptions for RoHS compliance, which means that medical and military equipment may also be tested and forced to comply with RoHS definitions.

It looks as though China will define RoHS compliance differently than the EU.  China requires all components and products that meet RoHS compliance regulations to carry a logo – a green “e” in a circle. Products and components which fail to meet RoHS compliance regulations will carry a different logo and are required to clearly list all the hazardous substances in the product. Each product not meeting RoHS compliance definitions also needs to list its Environmental Protection Use Period (EPUP), or the number of years that the hazardous substances will not leak or cause any damage or injury (under normal use of the product).

The sheer size of the Chinese tech market will make training, compliance testing, and enforcement challenging.

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About Kal

Kal Kawar, CIH, PE, has a bachelor's in chemical engineering and a master's in industrial hygiene. His professional experience includes serving as staff industrial hygienist for IBM's New York semiconductor manufacturing facility, and as industrial hygienist for IBM’s US headquarters. Now executive vice president of Actio, Kal taps more than 20 years' worth of chemical engineering, industrial hygiene, and environmental engineering experience. His far-reaching expertise with global regulatory challenges created by EPA, TSCA, REACH, RoHS, WEEE – and hundreds of others – aid in developing Actio software solutions for MSDS management, raw material disclosure compliance, and product stewardship in a supply chain.

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