RoHS’s Side Benefits

I have mentioned numerous times that the first purpose of RoHS is to help make recycling easier. So RoHS was developed to support WEEE. One would imagine that, in doing this, the EU was primarily concerned with recycling in the EU.

Fortunately, thousands of folks in the Third World will benefit from RoHS, as much recycling is performed by poor people in these countries. When they recycle non-RoHS-compliant scrap electronics, they are being poisoned by lead, cadmium, mercury, and smoke from non-banned organic compounds. This sad situation was again recently brought out in a New York Times article.

As more and more waste electronics becomes RoHS compliant, the amount of toxic material that these people are exposed to will become less and less. It still shocks me that, when I point out this benefit, a person comments something like this:

“You mean I have to put up with RoHS just to help these people?”

It is my fervent hope that very few of us feel this way.


Dr. Ron

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About Dr. Ron

Materials expert Dr. Ron Lasky is a professor of engineering and senior lecturer at Dartmouth, and senior technologist at Indium Corp. He has a Ph.D. in materials science from Cornell University, and is a prolific author and lecturer, having published more than 40 papers. He received the SMTA Founders Award in 2003.

7 thoughts on “RoHS’s Side Benefits

  1. Ron,
    I would certainly hope people are concerned for their fellow man and the environment.
    It is a spiritually ill person that would make the comment mentioned.

    But I have serious doubts that ROHS (as related to electronics assemblies, so far) will help mankind or the environment.

    Terrible “re-cycling” conditions.. are just that …
    Burning ROHS pcb assemblies .. will likely still pollute and kill the poor…
    and I doubt ROHS will effect the rate this tragedy kills or cripples at.

    Many of the “improvements” created by elimination of some un-desirable material..
    result in using a new material .. with similar or worse impacts on the world…
    the only difference.. their impact has not been proven yet.

    Rushing solutions… often creates more problems.
    but .. I suppose people think – “ya gotta do something, now!”

    It is my hope that these efforts will eventually lead to a better world.
    But for the present.. I view ROHS as a well intentioned.. but not improving the world.

    I prefer to see verified solutions/improvements in place before forcing industries to change…
    Not overly simplistic “get rid of xxxx in our products!”

    Reason: Failed efforts with no direction, erode people’s confidence in their leadership (industry and government).
    This makes it harder to create unified effort for future changes.

    Change is eternal…..(so let’s support improvements in the process of change)

  2. I agree with John. I believe that proper scientific studies BEFORE issuing the edict would have led to different conclusions.

    The RoHS edict was issued in January, 1993. No consideration was given to the environmental impact of potential lead solder replacements. The EU report on implementation ( July 2006) states that RoHS was “a political decision,” and therefore not appropriate for their scientific review.

    Comprehensive impact studies were not completed until 2005. A 472-page life-cycle assessment of the impact of four proposed lead-free solders issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in August, 2005 showed that SAC, the most popular lead-free solder, has a worse enviromental impact than tin-lead in 10 of the 16 categories, including hazard to human life.

    Originally, the major lead threat voiced by lead-free supporters was that of lead leaching into the water suppluy When no evidence was found to support this and substantial evidence indicated that that it doesn’t happen, the lead-free cheerleaders clutched the “recycling” life-preserver.

    Allegedly safer re-cycling may give some folks the warm feelies, but only by ignoring the greater life cyle health threat SAC presents to a wider range of people.

  3. Don,

    I hate to say it but your response is typical of the left wing nut heads. Yes we are concerned about the health of a third world person, but the stupidity of some of the rules of ROHS are completely…. stupid. Lead is used in copious quantities in lead acid batteries and let me tell you they are not going away for a very very long time. So why should we be concerned about removing lead from solder when it has NO environmental benefit and the biggest source will continue to pollute our environment. (Remember the oxides of lead formed in solder are benign…the original EPA report stating the counter has been shown to be absolutely rubbish.)

    Lets get really serious, lets implement a WEE type of regulation where all electronics are required to be recycled. Yes recycled!!!! Sony, Apple, IBM, Ge etc… every manufacturer of anything is now responsible for recycling anything they produce. Now wouldn’t that do away with all of this ROHS foolishness? It will never happen because all of this ‘green talk’ rubbish is just again rubbish. IBM, GE could no longer advertise how ‘green’ their products are now that they eliminated all of the BAD chemicals.

    Enough said………….


  4. RoHS is brilliant, yes, lets continue to dump our waste on these countries. We no longer need to deal with the problem of waste. Leaded solder in consumer electronics amounts to less than 2% of lead waste found in land fills or environment. Most is from lead batteries. There are many other oversights and flaws in the directive, the kind of smart ideas that generally come from the EU along with its other hallmarks. They claim no evidence of faults in electronics when companies now face billions per product in recalls. I think some of the better well known and obvious ones are Xbox360 and Sony PS3. Even the every latest PS3 consoles still have this problem. And the only permanent solution is to solder using lead solder!

    The EU has many double standards in many areas of its rules. What you may just expect from a bloated, wasteful juggernaut. They do not care about your health or would not risk the health of many in medical, health and military services with this RoHS compliance, and even where some areas in some countries make exemptions for this, they cannot always avoid lead free applications because manufacturers are ever more compliant with RoHS, even nations where no RoHS equivalent exist. Because the EU has its rule over all nations because of trade. It is plain wrong. Unless this was addressed proportionally and a proper replacement was made then it should not exist. Why are they condoning dumping waste on these countries, they don’t care! And they do nothing to stop toxic waste being dumped from EU member nations to offshore countries in International waters off Africa. The sooner the EU ends the sooner we return to our freedom and common sense. They have done nothing to improve the environment, are the most anti transparent organisation that are very corrupt. No accountants will sign them off. They break their own rules even.

    I’ve had to return so many electronic consumer goods for repairs and never had issues related to this before RoHS. Many dead products and most was able to confirm was down to using lead free solder. This creates more waste as a result…just other kinds. We still have mercury in our CFL. And the heat generated from Incandescent bulbs is used to heat rooms, in summer we do not use because we have more sunlight. I doubt very much the EU cares about recycling, only their top line and corporatism they promote throughout the world over. Most places where I live throughout the country have no recycling facilities for many products and they are dumped into non recyclable or on third world nations if not sold for scrap. I live in hope the EU will end sooner than later. Then we can return to our freedom and common sense.

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