Monday, May 18, 2009

Keeping up with RoHS

Although is estimated that the U.S. electronics industry consumes less than 2% of the world’s lead, efforts to comply with the ever-changing RoHS Directive from the EU have disproportionately affected our industry.

Design engineers should watch their bill of materials (BOM) costs because of new changes to RoHS, as overseeing governments phase out and expire some of the RoHS exemptions in the near future.

The European Commission (EC) has followed the guidance of two consultants: Fraunhofer IZM and Oko Institute. The EC allowed exemptions to RoHS when no technical alternative to the current technologies is possible. However, a general pattern is for the EC to eliminate exemptions.

At present, the EC proposes to withdraw the following six exemptions from the Directive’s list of 29:
1. Lead as an activator in fluorescent powder
2. Lead in linear incandescent lamps with silicate-coated tubes
3. Lead with lead/bismuth/tin/mercury and lead/indium/tin/mercury in specific compositions as the main amalgam or with lead/tin/mercury as the auxiliary amalgam in compact energy-saving lamps
4. Lead oxide in the glass envelope of black-light blue lamps
5. Lead oxide in the glass for bonding front and rear substrates of flat fluorescent lamps in LCDs
6. Lead alloys as solder for transducers in high-power loudspeakers.

These exemptions are projected to be in place by 2010 with an 18-month grace period, but what’s the next step? Most expect that more substances will be added or have exemptions lifted over time.

Many electronic products, or boards that go into end products, are produced with a reliance on exemptions today. Especially for products designed with long life cycles — such as medical and aerospace electronics — keeping up with the latest changes in RoHS is critical.

To discuss the latest inclusions and shrinking exemptions in RoHS, contact the IPC at or the EU at

Gail Flower, editor-at-large


  1. A good and cost effective way to keep up to date with changes to RoHS is subscribing to the RoHS-International Regulatory update service at This is a fraction of the cost of EIA Track.

  2. Talking about RoHS, how come Lead Free solder doesn't last as long as Leaded sodler? Just curious, because Mathis Electronics is doing Lifetime Warranty on leaded assembly, but 3 years on Lead Free assembly, thier site is