Hiawatha Bray reports in the Boston Globe that RoHS compliance is pushing American manufacturers to redesign their products in order to compete on a global scale. Though the US Federal government has placed no restrictions or limits on the hazardous materials listed in RoHS, the EU Directive is affecting more than Europe. US manufacturers concur that being certified as RoHS compliant will give their products the competitive edge in the US and will booster sales to vendors worldwide. The impetus from RoHS is driving compliance in every country, and even bolstering hazardous material regulations in China, South Korea, and barring the passage of AB 2202, California.
A tough European Union law that limits toxic substances in electronic devices takes effect on July 1, and US companies that want to do business across the Atlantic are racing to comply, spending billions of dollars to redesign their products.
``This is probably the biggest change in electronics in 50 years," said George Wilkish, senior quality engineer at M/A-Com Inc., a business unit of Tyco Electronics Corp ., in Lowell that makes a variety of radio and microwave components for communications gear.
Many electronic devices, like computer circuit boards and cathode ray tubes, are crammed with substances that can cause serious health problems if ingested. Lead can cause brain damage and pregnancy complications, for example, and cadmium can cause kidney disease. To prevent these poisons from ending up in landfills, EU regulators took a two-tiered approach. A law that took effect last year requires electronics firms to recycle their products, and the EU also enacted RoHS -- the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive-- to eliminate lead, cadmium, mercury, and three other toxic chemicals from electronic devices.
AB 2202 (Saldaña), which requires electronics manufacturers to phase out the use of hazardous materials by 2010, passed off the Assembly Floor yesterday on a 42-38 vote and will be heard next in the Senate. The measure struggled to get the required 41 votes, and will continually need to be buttressed by as much support as possible.