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IPC Efforts to Base RoHS Revision on Scientific Principles May Be Paying Off

Oct 07, 2010

BANNOCKBURN, IL - Yielding to growing concerns regarding the EU Parliament’s proposal to list thirty-seven substances for priority assessment under a revised RoHS Directive, the Belgian presidency proposed to abandon inclusion of a list of priority substances. Belgium currently holds the rotating EU Presidency and is responsible for chairing the EU Council.

IPC was concerned that the creation of a priority assessment list without scientific assessment would constitute a de facto blacklist. "We are extremely pleased by this turn of events" stated Fern Abrams, IPC director of government relations and environmental policy. "By setting aside their call for a list of substances for priority assessment, the Belgian Presidency is acknowledging our advocacy, echoed by the EU Commission and many EU member states, for a scientifically-based RoHS Directive." Revision of the RoHS Directive will require agreement between the EU Council, Commission and Parliament.

In a position paper released in September 2010, IPC unequivocally stated that, "Listing substances for priority assessment is prejudicial and would establish a de facto black list. Substances in Annex III would be considered harmful before a thorough scientific assessment is conducted. Substances should either be restricted under the RoHS Directive or not; there should be no ambiguity." Copies of the position paper were sent to RoHS shadow rapporteurs and other issue leaders in the EU government.

IPC has advocated over the past two years that any changes to the RoHS Directive be underpinned by a solid scientific examination. IPC and other electronics industry representatives recently met with representatives from the EU Commission to encourage them to continue to advocate that changes to the RoHS Directive be based on a rigorous scientific process. Meetings were also held with the Washington-based embassies of key EU member states, including the United Kingdom, Poland and Hungary, to express industry concerns.

While the European Commission's original proposal called for the priority assessment of four substances, already identified as substances of very high concern (SVHCs) under the REACH (Registration, Evaluation, and Authorisation of Chemicals) Regulation, in June, the EU Parliament's Environment Committee voted to drastically expand this list of substances by a narrow margin of 27 to 25. Many of the substances proposed to be added by the Environment Committee have not been demonstrated to pose a risk to humans or the environment when used in electronics. In fact, one of the substances, tetrabromobisphenol-A (TBBPA) has been found to be safe for human health and the environment by both the World Health Organization and the European Commission Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER).

In the latest Belgian proposal, the four original substances proposed by the EU Commission are mentioned in a recital saying their risks should be considered in the future. The Belgian text also does not contain a ban on nanosilver, which MEPs had voted to include on a list of banned substances appearing in Annex IV of the RoHS Directive.

The next meeting between the Parliament, the EU Commission, and the EU Council is scheduled for Thursday, October 7. A late-November vote in the Parliament may be rescheduled if the parties cannot come to agreement on the revision to the RoHS Directive.

For more information on IPC environmental initiatives, visit http://www.ipc.org/EHS.

IPC (www.IPC.org) is a global trade association based in Bannockburn, Ill., dedicated to the competitive excellence and financial success of its 2,700 member companies which represent all facets of the electronics industry, including design, printed board manufacturing, electronics assembly and test. As a member-driven organization and leading source for industry standards, training, market research and public policy advocacy, IPC supports programs to meet the needs of an estimated $1.7 trillion global electronics industry. IPC maintains additional offices in Taos, N.M.; Arlington, Va.; Garden Grove, Calif.; Stockholm, Sweden; Moscow, Russia; Bangalore, India; and Shanghai, Shenzhen and Beijing, China.

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