LONDON EU proposals to ban the use of lead in electronic equipment are likely to accelerate industry’s already growing problem of how it can maintain expensive, long-lifespan equipment when components become obsolete according to the Component Obsolescence Group (COG).
Lead, which is used in soldering on the vast majority of electronic circuit boards, is due to be banned in July 2006 under the Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment (RoHS) Directive.
Michael Trenchard, Chief Executive of COG, “The increasing pace of technological change is already causing component obsolescence problems for an increasing number of industry sectors which rely on equipment lasting for 10, 20 or even up to 40 years. This could be anything from an expensive medical device, to a train, an aircraft or equipment in a power plant. The ban on lead is going to step this up a gear.”
“Obsolescence aside, there is still a huge amount of uncertainty in the electronics industry as to what companies’ obligations and liabilities will actually be under RoHS and WEEE. The proposals are currently still quite vague: a situation which is not made any easier by the fact that we are now on the third consultation on the UK rules, which are overseen by three separate Government organisations” added Trenchard.
DEFRA, the DTI and the Environment Agency share responsibility for implementing the RoHS and WEEE Directives. The third consultation, to which COG has made a submission, is due to close on 29 October 2004.
“Organisations that deal with other EU member states have the added concern of whether their rules are going to be the same as ours,” says Trenchard. “At the moment, it looks as though the only way to find out for sure if companies are compliant is going to be by testing it in law.”