Bismuth: Behind the Numbers

Based on a recent post I published regarding the use of bismuth in solder alloys, John writes:

If Bismuth comes from the production of Pb, and if the use of Pb is being reduced, won’t the availability of Bi be reduced…and the price would increase?”

Just thinking…

Dr. Ron responds:

Lead has been banned from many of its original uses, paints, solders, water pipes, gasoline, etc. However, its increased use in batteries has actually caused lead consumption to rise. The USGS estimates that 88% of lead produced is used for lead-acid batteries.

Many of us in electronics assembly have been focused on the 2006 RoHS lead ban. This may have caused us to believe that lead use in electronics was significant. About 9 million metric tons (MT) of lead are consumed each year, only about 20,000 metric tons were used for solders prior to July 2006, this amount is only about 0.22% of the total. Electronics lead use being so small is likely why the lead industry had little visibility in fighting RoHS. Their important customers were making batteries.

Lead is quite effectively recycled, as about 60% of the 9 million MTs/yr. are from recycling and 40% from mining.

Over 100 million lead-acid auto batteries are sold each year in the US alone. In addition, the use of lead-acid batteries in forklifts, electronic vehicles, and golf carts has increased demand for lead. So, the bottom line is that lead use is expected to grow at about 2% per year.

Considering that we calculated that bismuth use in solders would be at most 5% of total bismuth production, it is unlikely that this use, or lead production reduction, would affect bismuth supplies.

Best Wishes,

Dr. Ron

RoHS Recast of November 2010

The consolidated text of the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Recast has been adopted by the European Commission.  On Nov. 24, the European Parliament’s environment committee adopted a compromise deal on updating existing legislation on the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) in electronic and electrical equipment.  In an overwhelming margin, 640 votes were in favor, three against and 12 abstained.

The RoHS Directive will apply to more types of electronic and electrical equipment, including mechanized toys and lab equipment. This update to EU legislation notes a likely forthcoming review that would consider adding new substances to the current blacklist.

The current RoHS blacklist is as follows:

The RoHS Recast is still subject to further processes prior to final publication in the OJEC, the Official Journal of the European Community.  One aspect of that is confirmation by the European Parliament.

The National Measurement Office of the U.K. is responsible for enforcing the implemented RoHS Regulations only and is not directly involved in this process. They are providing advice and guidance on the future implementation in the meantime until the final version is published.  Advice and guidance is based on the most up to date information available at the time it is given.

Policy questions should be directed to BIS / the European Commission.Commission Decision 2010/571/EU

Exemptions under RoHS recast

Here is what you need to know about exemptions so far.

1.There are no exemptions from RoHS Regulations for products containing either PBB or PBDE.
2.There is one exemption for products containing hexavalent chromium.
3.There are six exemptions for products containing cadmium.
4.There are about 35 exemptions for products containing either mercury or lead.

For a full list of exemptions, click here to go straight to the official site.

Here is some extra help in the form of Guidance from the RoHS site in the UK.  We’ll be sure to post breaking news on this subject as events warrant.