It’s incredible to realize that many of the household electric and electronic items that we took for granted in the 20th century – such as refrigerators, light bulbs, and electronic children’s toys – contained unacceptably high levels of hazardous substances including lead, mercury, and flame retardants. Occupational exposure was widespread, along with potentially significant harm to the environment when such items ended up in landfills.
While the problem of e-waste shows no signs of abating, many countries have created legislation or issued directives that restrict hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment.
One such directive is RoHS (Directive 2002/95/EC), or the directive on the Restriction of the use of certain Hazardous Substances in electrical and electronic equipment. Adopted in February 2003 by the European Union, the directive came into effect on July 1, 2006. The scope of the original directive has been updated with additions to the list of restricted substances and electronic equipment that must comply, referred to as RoHS 2 and RoHS 3.
RoHS is also referred to as the “lead-free directive,” although it restricts nine other substances besides lead in the manufacture of electronic and electrical equipment.