Friday, May 20, 2011

RoHS & RoHS Compliance: Questions for Q-Bot

Dear Q-Bot: When I shop QSource.com for certain products, I often see the terms RoHS or RoHS-compliant. What does this mean and why is RoHS-compliance important? Thanks! — S.R.G. via the Internet

Greetings S.R.G.:
RoHS is the acronym for Restriction of Hazardous Substances. Originating in the European Union (EU), and known as Directive 2002/95/EC, it restricts the use of six hazardous/toxic materials used in electrical and electronic products.

Often referred to as Lead-Free, the RoHS Directive indicates maximum levels for these six materials:
  • Lead (Pb): < 1000 ppm (Exposure can lead to neurological disorders—including changes in mental development and behaviors in children)
  • Mercury (Hg): < 100 ppm (Exposure can lead to neurological disorders—especially in babies and children)
  • Cadmium (Cd): < 100 ppm (Exposure can lead to kidney dysfunction, lung cancer, and prostate cancer)
  • Hexavalent Chromium: (Cr VI) < 1000 ppm (Exposure can lead to cancer, irritation, nasal septum perforation, the development of stomach ulcers, kidney and liver damage, convulsions, and even death)
  • Polybrominated Biphenyls (PBB): < 1000 ppm (Exposure is possibly carcinogenic to humans)
  • Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDE): < 1000 ppm (Exposure can lead to liver toxicity, thyroid toxicity, and neurodevelopmental toxicity)
Faced with the reality of millions of tons of potentially toxic electronic waste being deposited into landfills and the environment each year, the EU created RoHS to address hazardous substances in the following product categories:
  • Category 1: Large Household Appliances (refrigerators, washers, stoves, air conditioners, etc.)
  • Category 2: Small Household Appliances (vacuum cleaners, hair dryers, coffee makers, irons, etc.)
  • Category 3: Computing & Communications Equipment (computers, printers, copiers, phones, etc.)
  • Category 4: Consumer Electronics (TVs, DVD players, stereos, video cameras, etc.)
  • Category 5: Lighting: (lamps, lighting fixtures, light bulbs, etc.)
  • Category 6: Power Tools (drills, saws, nail guns, sprayers, lathes, trimmers, blowers, etc.)
  • Category 7: Toys & Sports Equipment (video games, electric trains, treadmills, etc.)
  • Category 10: Automatic Dispensers (vending machines, ATM machines, etc.)
Category 8 (Medical Devices & Equipment) and Category 9 (Control & Monitoring Equipment) are currently exempted from RoHS compliance. For more information about exempted materials check out the UK’s National Measurement Office site.

While RoHS is an EU directive, it impacts any business that sells the aforementioned products to RoHS countries or to resellers, distributors, or integrators that sell these products to EU countries. All impacted products introduced into the EU market after July 1, 2006 have had to pass/apply RoHS compliance.

A related directive to RoHS is WEEE, which stands for Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment (Directive 2002/96/EC). For more information on WEEE, see the European Commission’s WEEE Directive page.

As a piece of electronic equipment myself, RoHS and WEEE are important to me. Plus, it's just plain fun to shout WEEE as I zip through the warehouse here at Q Source. Thanks for your question, S.R.G., and please continue reading The Q Source Resource blog.

To submit your "Question for Q-Bot," please contact me via Twitter (@q_source), Facebook, or the "Ask a Question" link on the QSource.com homepage.

— Q-Bot

For Further Reference:
RoHS Guide
National Measurement Office (UK)
Information about RoHS & WEEE from the European Commission (.pdf file)
Wikipedia's RoHS Page
eHow's RoHS Page
Laws Fail to Keep up with Mounting E-Trash
High-Tech Trash - Will your discarded TV end up in a ditch in Ghana?
Technology's Morning After

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