Market Insights 11 min read

RoHS Exemption Request Assessment Reports Published

Oct 24, 2018 RoHS Exemption Request Assessment Reports Published

Circuit boardThe Oeko Institut has published two reports on its assessment of RoHS Directive exemption renewal requests and of new exemption requests1. These are referred to by Oeko as “pack 13” and “pack 14”.

Pack 13 consists of requests for two new exemptions and to renew exemption 1g of Annex III:

  • Exemption 1g Annex III renewal “Mercury in single – capped (compact) fluorescent lamps for general lighting purposes < 30 W with a lifetime equal or above 20 000 h: 3,5 mg.”Oeko recommend that this exemption should be revoked because LED lamps are regarded as suitable alternatives, although the applicant claims that these are not always suitable as drop-in replacements. Oeko recommends a transition period of 18 months be granted for category 5 only. However RoHS Article 5.6 states that if an application for renewal of an exemption is rejected or the exemption is revoked, it will not expire until 12 to 18 months after the decision is published, so a transition period will need to be allowed for other categories.
  • Two requests for lead in solder were requested but these were withdrawn before the completion of the assessment.

Pack 14 consists of three renewal requests and five requests for new exemptions:

  • Annex III, exemption 41 “Lead in solders and termination finishes of electrical and electronic components and finishes of printed circuit boards used in ignition modules and other electrical and electronic engine control systems, which for technical reasons must be mounted directly on or in the crankcase or cylinder of hand-held combustion engines (classes SH:1, SH:2, SH:3 of Directive 97/68/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council”. Oeko recommends renewal until 30 June 2021 to allow the applicant time to request renewal again if the results of field trials show that lead-free substitutes are unreliable.
  • Annex IV, exemption 37 “Lead in platinized platinum electrodes used for conductivity measurements where at least one of the following conditions applies: (a) wide-range measurements with a conductivity range covering more than 1 order of magnitude (e.g. range between 0,1 mS/m and 5 mS/m) in laboratory applications for unknown concentrations; (b) measurements of solutions where an accuracy of +/– 1 % of the sample range and where high corrosion resistance of the electrode are required for any of the following: (i) solutions with an acidity < pH 1; (ii) solutions with an alkalinity > pH 13; (iii) corrosive solutions containing halogen gas; (c) measurements of conductivities above 100 mS/m that must be performed with portable instruments”. Oeko recommends renewal with a validity period of 7 years. However, Oeko comment that a shorter period of 5 years could be granted to encourage manufacturers to look for alternatives. Oeko state in the report that category 9 equipment manufacturers do not appear to have a strategy to replace lead and that research papers into substitutes, referred to by the applicant, were not available to Oeko. However, JBCE (the applicant) claims that research into substitutes has been carried out over many years without success and that the category 9 equipment manufacturers are not experts in these electrodes and so have to rely on others.
  • Annex IV exemption 41 “Lead as a thermal stabiliser in polyvinyl chloride (PVC) used as base material in amperometric, potentiometric and conductometric electrochemical sensors which are used in in-vitro diagnostic medical devices for the analysis of blood and other body fluids and body gases”. This exemption renewal request was based on environmental arguments as substitutes have been developed. Oeko recommend two options: renew until 1 April 2023 if the Commission agrees that the impact of substitution (based on the applicant’s comparative life cycle assessment) is sufficient justification, otherwise allow an 18 month transition period before expiry. This is an unusual recommendation as the Commission employs Oeko to make one recommendation based on its assessment, then the Commission will decide on the most appropriate course of action.
  • New request for Annex IV “Lead in solders of alpha spectrometers, pulse-processing electronics, scintillation detectors and spectroscopy systems used in equipment to identify radiation, expiring on 23 July 2024”. Oeko’s recommendation was that this exemption request should not be granted. This is because Oeko contacted the applicant’s competitors who reported that they have developed lead-free substitutes and so this exemption would not be justified.
  • New request in Annex IV “Lead in solder and hexavalent chromium in parts used to make RF detectors in Mass Spectrometers”. The applicant withdrew this request during the assessment.
  • New request in Annex III “Lead in thermal cut-off fuses overmolded into solenoid coils used in industrial monitoring and control instruments (Category 9) and EEE falling under Category 11”. The applicant withdrew this request during the assessment.
  • New request in Annex III “Bis (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate in rubber parts such as O-rings, seals, vibration dampers, gaskets, hoses, grommets and cap-plugs that are used in engine systems including exhausts and turbochargers that are designed for use in equipment that is not designed solely for consumer use”. Oeko recommends granting for the maximum validity period of 5 years but with a more limited scope wording. They recommend granting on the basis that although substitutes have been developed, the reliability in engines using these is not assured and so the exemption is justified.
  • New request in Annex III “Lead in solders of sensors, actuators and engine control units (ECUs) that are used to monitor and control engine systems including turbochargers and exhaust emission controls of internal combustion engines used in equipment that are not intended to be used solely by consumers”. Oeko recommends granting for the maximum validity period of 5 years but with a more limited scope wording. Oeko recommendation is as follows “The applicant has provided detailed information, which plausibly describes issues related to achieving RoHS-compliance in the relevant industry sector. In the consultants’ understanding, the second criterion provided under RoHS Article 5(1)(a) is fulfilled for some of the components (sensors, actuators and ECUs) in scope of this exemption request. According to the applicant, engines can only be tested for reliability and certified to comply with the NRMM Emissions Regulation when all components are available as RoHS-compliant versions. Although the consultants do not agree with this approach in general, in this case it can be followed that the sector is still in the first years of the compliance process and the will to commence testing on engine level, once the first screening is completed”.

For the exemption renewals and requests where granting is recommended, it is now for the Commission to publish proposals – something that may take many months (at least from past experience). After the proposals are published they are scrutinised by the Council and the European Parliament before publication in the EU Official Journal.

It is worth noting that, for some of the new requests, the length of time that the legislative process is taking is a serious problem. This is because publication in the Official Journal, when the exemptions become legally binding, may be after the category 11 equipment that they affect enters scope of the RoHS Directive in July 2019.

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