EU Extends Ban on Hazardous Substances To Wider Range of Electrical Devices

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BRUSSELS—European Union nations have agreed to extend a ban on certain hazardous chemicals in electrical and electronic goods to a wider range of products, including medical devices, electronic toys, cables, and spare parts.

The agreement will update the EU’s Restriction of Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (2002/95/EC), which already bans cadmium, hexavalent chromium, lead, mercury, and some brominated flame retardants from a number of categories of electronic and electrical goods, including computers, mobile phones, and televisions.

In a statement, the EU Council, which represents the governments of member nations, said the ban would now “in principle apply to all electrical and electronic equipment,” though solar panels would be exempted “in order to attain the EU’s ambitious targets for renewable energy and energy efficiency.”

Bans on substances in products not covered by the original directive would be phased in over eight years, the Council said.

The Council said the European Commission would review the impact of the revised rules no later than three years after their entry into force. “This means that further substances in electrical and electronic equipment may be banned in the future,” the Council said.

Revision Finalized by EU Council.

The revision was adopted without debate May 27 by the EU Council, made up of EU member state ministers responsible for telecommunications, at a meeting in Brussels.

Finalization of the legislation marked the end of a three-year process during which the European Parliament failed to bring a number of other substances under the restriction on hazardous substances, including nanosilver and carbon nanotubes (105 DEN A-1, 6/3/10).

Following negotiations with the Council, the Parliament voted in November 2010 in favor of a less ambitious revision, the main effect of which will be to extend the scope of the restrictions. The text approved by the Council May 27 is identical to that approved by the Parliament in November (226 DEN A-2, 11/26/10).

EU countries are required to adopt the revised legislation into their national legal codes within 18 months.

Some of the substances covered by the Restriction of Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive are increasingly restricted by other EU legislation, including REACH (Regulation (EC) No. 1907/2006 on the registration, evaluation, and authorization of chemicals, suggesting the new restrictions might eventually become redundant.

By Stephen Gardner

The finalized text of the revised directive on electrical equipment is available at http://register.consilium.europa.eu/pdf/en/10/pe00/pe00062.en10.pdf .