LONDON The recent UK ban on the use of certain brominated flame retardants in the manufacture of new electrical and electronic equipment, has resulted in confusion amongst the electronics industry according to Soldertec Global, a membership based organisation focusing on research into soldering technology,
Publicity surrounding the year 2006 deadlines for the WEEE and RoHS Directives has meant that this has been the major priority for the industry says the organisation so a separate EU Directive, which has had less publicity, has fallen by the wayside and resulted in many electronics companies still being unaware of this regulation, which came into force in the UK on August 15, 2004.
This recent ban comes under a separate EU regulation restricting the marketing and use of certain dangerous substances (Council Directive 76/769/EEC). The EU Directive on the brominated flame retardants, pentabromodiphenyl ether (penta-BDE) and octabromodiphenyl ether (octa-BDE), came into force in the EU on the date of publication February 15, 2003.
However, each EU member state must introduce their own national legislation in order to implement any EU Directive. The UK decided on 15th August 2004 and, consequently, penta- and octa- BDE’s are now banned in the UK.
Dr Paul Cusack, research manager at the chemicals technology division of Tin Technology says Soldertec Global aims to assist the electronics industry in order to meet the targets of this ban. “It is not hugely expensive to test new formulations which meet this recent regulation. Many potential formulations could be tested in one day using a variety of test methods including UL-94, NBS smoke box, limiting oxygen index, and cone calorimeter.”
Penta-BDE has mainly been used in flexible foams for upholstery and furniture, and to a lesser extent in low cost printed circuit boards. The main use of octa-BDE has been in ABS resins for electronic equipment casings. However, it is likely that octa-BDE will now be replaced by alternative brominated flame retardants which are not affected by the ban. It may be necessary for older components to be investigated to establish which type of flame retardant has been used.
Annual consumption of all brominated flame retardants in Western Europe for the electronics industry is approximately 22,000 tonnes. The key four sub-divsions are: casings (59%), printed circuit boards (30%), connectors and relays (9%) and wire and cable (2%).