While the European Union’s REACH regulation (formally, Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 December 2006 concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) has been in force for nearly two years, it is rolling out in a slow and determined fashion. In October 2008 the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) produced the first candidate list of 15 substances of very high concern (SVHCs). Last spring, in early June, seven of those substances were prioritized to be the first to go through the authorization process. This is the next step towards possible future restrictions for these substances. Then, in early September the second list of 15 proposed candidate SVHCs was issued and 14 of these substances were then added to the candidate list of SVHCs in mid-January this year. What is next and what does all this mean to manufacturers of electronic components and products?
The REACH Era
The regulation referred to as REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals), came into effect in European Union Member States in June of 2007. The intent of REACH is to regulate chemicals that can cause cancer and other diseases.
REACH applies to thousands of chemicals (substances) that are used or present in electrical equipment. REACH also applies to mixtures or solutions of substances (preparations), and end products (articles). Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs), are the most hazardous and harmful substances and are highly regulated. Products containing SVHCs may not receive authorization if a safer alternative exists.
REACH affects all organizations that export, manufacture, or use chemicals. Early planning and good communications are urgently needed to avoid disruptions in the supply chain. Parts and equipment manufacturers will be affected by unexpected withdrawal of substances from their suppliers due to REACH.
Ben Franklin: “Nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes”. If Franklin were alive today, he would have many items to add to that statement. In the electronics industry – and its supply chains – a contemporary item he would include is product environmental compliance.
Since the European Union (EU) passed the Restriction on the use of certain Hazardous Substances (RoHS) and Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directives in 2003, the world has begun to pay more and more attention to product environmental compliance. Eco-Compliance legislation impacting the electronics Industry and its supply chains has grown exponentially. Jurisdictions implementing legislation that impacts the electronics industry include: China, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Venezuela, Canada and United States of America. Many are similar to the European Union’s legislation; but none are using it verbatim.
In addition to RoHS and WEEE legislations, the EU instituted an updated regulation regarding chemicals, mixtures, and articles. Registration, Evaluation, Authorization of Chemicals Regulation (REACH) began affecting the electronics industry a few years ago, and has now become the basis for many compliance activities.
As manufacturers design new products and update the design of old products, many times they sell and offer for sale different designs with differing levels of safety and quality. There are many reasons for the differences including multi-functional uses of the product, different price points (e.g. good, better, and best), requests by customers, adoption of safety improvements, and inconsistent regulations and standards between the U.S. and foreign countries.
This article will explore the legal and practical risks in selling products with these differences and what manufacturers can do to minimize the risk.
With the destabilization of the economy, many companies are looking for ways to increase profits and performance within their particular industry. The electronics industry is no exception. Many electronics companies are working towards improved quality and reliability at the same rate as improving the performance of the products they manufacture.