The Restriction of Hazardous Substances, or RoHS directive, was established in 2003 by the EU, as a way of restricting certain hazardous substances used in the manufacture of electronic and electrical equipment. It became law in 2006.
Even though the RoHS directive covers just 6 substances, it had a tremendous impact on those involved in digital system development and electronic component engineering. Closely allied with the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) compliance scheme, it was introduced to cope with the problem of toxic e-waste finding its way into the environment.
The restricted substances included lead, cadmium, mercury, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyls and diphenyl ethers and oxides. Owing to the wide use of these chemicals in electronics manufacture, the RoHS directive placed severe restrictions on essential materials used by firmware development engineers. These included:
PVC leads and USB cables (which use cadmium in their pigmentation)
PCB layout finishes (Lead is used in solders, and hexavalent chromium is used for corrosion-resistant treatments).
Bulbs and batteries (Mercury is used in the backlighting of screens, and projector lamps. Cadmium is used in batteries and photocells.)
Glass screens, metal fixings, and flame-retardant finishes (which use polybrominated biphenyls and diphenyl ethers).
The good news was that certain hardware was exempt, in particular, that concerning medical, monitoring and control applications. These were placed in RoHS directive groups 8 and 9. The bad news is that the exemption only remained valid until 2012 or 2018, depending on the subcategory – though the EU has yet to make this official. The lower date is fast approaching.
We at Enventure Technologies can help with all areas of environmental compliance – including REACH EU legislation.