Just when you think you understand RoHS, here comes RoHS2

garynevison1As you may recall, the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive 2002/95 entered into force on July 1, 2006. It featured six restricted substances across eight broad categories of product pulled from the ten categories in the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive.

There were 29 exemptions to assist manufacturers and design engineers, where no viable alternative was available and a whole raft of “gray” definitions that required clarity. “RoHS2” (my name for the new proposals) looks to move the directive forward and provide greater clarity. However, some of its provisions will potentially have cost and resource issues for the industry.

The proposals recommend that the two remaining categories from the original WEEE categories, namely medical devices and monitoring and control instruments, be added to the scope from 2014 on (in-vitro diagnostics from 2016 and industrial “test” equipment from 2017). These were originally omitted from the directive due to reliability concerns over the use of lead-free solder.

While there are no substances actually restricted under the proposals, four are recommended for priority assessment. Three plasticizers used in a variety of applications and a flame retardant may well be restricted. Ironically, the substances — BBP, DBP, DEHP and HBCDD — are four of the seven substances subject to authorization of use under the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) Regulations.

The fate of these substances under RoHS will be open to consultation after the revised directive comes into scope sometime between 2011 and 2012. Either way, any restriction under RoHS will probably be sooner than under the REACH process, and the analysis is unlikely to be done twice.

Under a separate review by European Commission consultants, 29 exemptions will continue under the proposals, many with amended wording for clarity; six will be withdrawn and one new one will be granted. These could come into force next year and that will be followed by a transposition period of, on average, 18 months, allowing manufacturers the time to comply.

In addition, six exemptions were added in June 2009 that had been proposed a year earlier. RoHS2 also clarifies definitions such as equipment within out-of-scope equipment, spare parts and military where the latter clearly does not include dual-use equipment.

A standard, and rigid declaration of conformity appears in Annex 7 and will replace the multitude of different certificates, statements and compliance documents under the original legislation. There now appears to be no scope for qualifying statements such as “so far as we are aware” and “to the best of our knowledge.”

It is proposed that RoHS will become a CE mark directive, placing responsibility on manufacturers, importers and distributors. There are many requirements, including building technical files and keeping them for ten years, ensuring that products comply, they are supplied with the CE mark and the manufacturer or importer is identified on the product. Sample testing should also be carried out where appropriate, and corrective action will be undertaken where product is found to be non-compliant.

Finally, the broad product categories and list of indicative products will move from the WEEE Directive to Annex 1 and 2 of the RoHS Directive.

In the U.S. and Canada, RoHS-like laws are still on a state or province level. You can view the current status at