The definition and aim of the RoHS directive is quite simple. The RoHS directive aims to restrict certain dangerous substances commonly used in electronic and electronic equipment. Any RoHS compliant component is tested for the presence of Lead (Pb), Cadmium (Cd), Mercury (Hg), Hexavalent chromium (Hex-Cr), Polybrominated biphenyls (PBB), and Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE). For Cadmium and Hexavalent chromium, there must be less than 0.01% of the substance by weight at raw homogeneous materials level. For Lead, PBB, and PBDE, there must be no more than 0.1% of the material, when calculated by weight at raw homogeneous materials. Any RoHS compliant component must have 100 ppm or less of mercury and the mercury must not have been intentionally added to the component. In the EU, some military and medical equipment are exempt from RoHS compliance.
Chris Smith heads the National Weights and Measures Laboratory (NWML), which is in charge of RoHS enforcement in the UK. Smith recently told the media 99 percent of products examined by the NWML are meeting 99 percent of the requirements. This means that since the RoHS directive came into action in the EU in July 2006, the majority of companies are complying with the directive.
According to Smith, most companies who have not been compliant have become so after only some RoHS training. Only a few firms have had to be prosecuted in order to ensure compliance. Smith notes that the most common faults in UK companies tend to be higher-than-permitted levels of hexavalent chromium and unacceptably high levels of lead in plastic components. NWML determines RoHS compliance using documentation and a screening system which includes the use of a metal analyzer as well as other equipment.
Although RoHS training and compliance seems to be a success story in the EU, in China it is still news. 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).
So far, it is unknown how RoHS compliance will work in China, although some have voiced concern about the lack of RoHS training and the lack of warning tech companies have had about new regulations. The sheer size of the Chinese tech market may also make compliance testing and enforcement challenging.
For More information, visit the UK's RoHS Compliance web site
Visit our sister site on Consumer Product Safety