Tracking EU RoHS: Background, Timeline, and a Nightmare Scenario
- What is RoHS and which substances are restricted?
- Is a spreadsheet all you need to track RoHS compliance?
- RoHS nightmare scenarios
Background of Latest RoHS Directive
Also known as Directive 2015/863/EC, RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) originated in the European Union and restricts the use of specific hazardous substances in certain electrical and electronic components.
Substance thresholds restricted by RoHS:
- Lead (Pb) (≤ 0.1 percent or 1,000 ppm)
- Mercury (Hg) (≤ 0.1 percent or 1,000 ppm)
- Cadmium (Cd) (≤ 0.1 percent or 1,000 ppm)
- Hexavalent chromium (CrVI) (≤ 0.1 percent or 1,000 ppm)
- Polybrominated biphenyls (PBB) (≤ 0.1 percent or 1,000 ppm)
- Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE) (≤ 0.1 percent or 1,000 ppm)
- Bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) (≤ 0.1 percent or 1,000 ppm)
- Benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP) (≤ 0.1 percent or 1,000 ppm)
- Dibutyl phthalate (DBP) (≤ 0.1 percent or 1,000 ppm)
- Diisobutyl phthalate (DIBP) (≤ 0.1 percent or 1,000 ppm)
These restricted substances are considered hazardous to our environment and pollute landfills, while also posing hazardous risks to someone's health if exposed during manufacturing or disposal.
While RoHS is enforced by the EU, companies around the world are still affected by the regulation. Any company selling electronic parts or products directly to companies in the EU or indirectly to countries in the EU (via distributors, resellers, etc.) is impacted by RoHS compliance.
RoHS Updates Timeline
RoHS 2 was published in 2011 and came into effect in July of 2013. The primary addition in RoHS 2 came in the form of a CE-marking directive.
This directive required companies to use a certification mark on their products to indicate they comply with all environmental and public health safety guidelines directed by RoHS.
Since 2014, RoHS has received 5 updates:
- 2014: Non-industrial control and monitoring instruments and most medical devices were added to RoHS compliance product categories.
- 2016: In-vitro diagnostic medical devices (IVDs) were added to RoHS compliance product categories.
- 2017: Industrial monitoring and control instruments were added to the product categories list.
- 2019: DEHP, BBP, DBP, and DIBP were added to the restricted substances list, and new product category 11 was added
- 2021: Category 8 and 9 medical devices now must comply with restricted substances added in 2019
The listed updates above culminate into RoHS 3, which is the most recent and up to date directive.
While RoHS updates do not occur frequently, it can still be difficult for companies to certify their compliance with the regulation.
Tracking RoHS Compliance
Using a simple spreadsheet listing to track RoHS compliance is fine.
Until it isn't.
Once your company is challenged by the directive, it has 30 days to gather compliance documentation on every single component in your bill of materials. And that documentation includes the traceability of all the information. This means presenting full material declarations on every component, including the packaging and labeling.
Using comprehensive compliance data, with full material declarations and organizational features, helps you avoid these challenges from the RoHS directive and avoid nightmare scenarios.
RoHS Nightmare Scenario
An example of a worst-case scenario in RoHS violations brings us back to the summer of 2006—when the first RoHS directives were implemented. Design News reported that 4 or 5 manufacturing firms based in Taiwan were fined by the EU for failing to meet RoHS regulation standards.
The offending products averaged a fine of $132,000 US dollars for the manufacturing firms. One of the companies revealed a total of $3.1 million in products were returned for violating RoHS.
For a detailed summary of RoHS fines and penalties in some EU countries, take a look at this PDF.