RoHS Recast — Regulatory Update Made Official

The Council of the European Union (“the Council“) officially revised the RoHS directive on hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment.  The chemical restrictions will now apply to all electrical and electronic equipment, as well as to cables and spare parts, and to medical devices, medical equipment, control and monitoring equipment – which were previously exempt from RoHS compliance but are not exempt now.

Further, this recast will harmonize the directive across the European Union.

The product categories affected by RoHS include large household appliances, computer equipment, TVs, lighting, toys and video games, and vending and ATM machines – as well as the categories listed at the top of this article.  You can imagine then that almost all discrete manufacturing sectors are affected – as most use computer equipment in parts, components or assemblies.  RoHS creates a notable data management challenge in terms of supplied parts and compliance certification.

RoHS Recast provisions. Provisions are included in the recast to allow time for the market to adjust.

A three-year transitional period is allowed for some devices:

  • monitoring
  • control
  • medical

A five-year transitional period is allowed for:

  • in vitro medical devices

A six-year transitional period is allowed for:

  • industrial control appliances

Nanomaterials under RoHS. Everyone wants to know how nanomaterials will be regulated.  It’s a grey area.  Rightly, the European Commission says that work towards a common definition of nanomaterials is necessary (yes!) and ongoing. The EC intends to adopt a Commission Recommendation on a common definition “in the near future.”

The Commission considers that the RoHS provisions cover different forms (including nanoforms) of the substances which are currently banned. The Commission also considers that these RoHS provisions cover forms subject to a priority review under RoHS in the future.

RoHS Recast next steps. Next steps include:

  • Signatures and Journal publication
  • Transposition into EU member state laws
  • Industry implementation

There are a few good resources for more information. Design Chain Associates (DCA) has a good article and some (reasonably priced) on-demand webinars for more in depth review.

Would you accept this RoHS? It may be a good idea to review why we are gathered here today. While the ins and outs of regulations can be like jungle hacking – a look from the air is a good idea from time to time.

There are measurable environmental benefits to a well-executed and enforced RoHS program. Reported environmental benefits include:
•    reduction of lead (Pb) use in products by 82,700 tons in the EU
•    reduction of cadmium (Cd) use in products by 14,200 tons
•    reduction of mercury (Hg) use in products by 9,500 tons due to changes in copiers and fluorescent light bulbs
•    reduction of mercury in waste streams by 6,900 tons

RoHS restricted substances. RoHS focuses on six hazardous substances: lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium and two types of flame retardants in plastics (PBB and PBDE). The restrictions have not changed since last November, but additional hazardous substances are now expected, whereas the list of substances of concern under the previous version of RoHS was considered more stable. Click here for the current list/threshold amounts.

To wit, RoHS is a directive, not a regulation. The difference is that a directive cares only about the result. With RoHS, for example, the required result is the restricted use of certain toxic metals in electronics manufacturing. A regulation, on the other hand, delineates to each entity under the umbrella of the regulation how to get the result.  A good example is the REACH regulation, which has a detailed process for substance registration, use, and data sharing.

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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.