Are you compliant with the new RoHS2 Phthalate Substance Restrictions?

    Aidan Turnbull

In July 2019, four more substances will become restricted under the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS2) Directive. Electrical and electronic equipment which contains more than 0.1% of the phthalates DEHP, BBP, DBP or DIBP in any homogenous material will be banned from the European market from 22 July 2019, with an exemption for medical devices and monitoring and control instruments until 22 July 2021.

According to industry, there are still a lot of non-compliant materials used in electronics and electrical equipment – particularly in purchased components such as cables. Enforcement actions against such products by customs authorities can be very costly with product recall, lost sales and product reformulation costs to be taken into consideration.

PlayStation one console

For example, you may remember the enforcement action taken against Sony in December 2001, where 1.3 million PlayStations and 800,000 accessory packs worth over $162 million USD were impounded by Dutch customs, because the PSOne consoles and packs were bundled with cables which the inspectors found to contain up to 20 times the permitted levels of cadmium.

Sony purchased the cables from their component suppliers – Taiwan press articles identified three cable suppliers: Delta Electronics, Cheng Uei and Hon Hai Precision (better known as Foxconn). Sony did not design and manufacture the cables themselves. But because these purchased components were supplied with the Sony product, Sony was responsible for ensuring they comply with the substance restrictions. The product recall, lost sales and product reformulation costs are estimated at about $150 million USD.

Why mention this story from 17 years ago? In 2016 Sweden led a joint European enforcement project which tested 157 USB cables across seven European countries. Finland tested 24 cables, Belgium tested 27 cables, Slovenia tested three cables, Norway tested 38 cables, the UK tested 15 cables, Austria tested six cables and Sweden tested 46 cables. All countries used XRF to screen the cables.

The 60 cables which failed the XRF screening were then sent to laboratories for detailed, and more accurate, chemical testing, and 38 cables, equal to 24%, were found to be non-compliant to RoHS2 substance restrictions. Thirty-two cables, about 20%, failed for lead in solders. Eight cables, about 5%, failed for cadmium in solders (two cables had both lead and cadmium in solders).

The high percentage of non-compliant cables in 2016 is surprising in view of the enforcement action taken against Sony in 2001! Fifteen years later, cables and other third-party purchased components continue to represent the highest compliance risk for products for RoHS2 compliance.

Sweden went further than other countries and also tested 35 cables for the four new RoHS2 phthalates DEHP, BBP, DBP, DiBP, which are also included on the REACH Candidate List. Thirteen of the cables, that’s about 37%, contained the four new RoHS2 phthalates in concentrations greater than 0.1% by weight of the article.

Chemical Watch is running a free webinar with BOMcheck on Wednesday 6 February to explain what types of materials are at risk of containing the four new RoHS2 phthalates and how companies can use the EN 50581 standard to prioritise their compliance efforts on higher risk supplier parts.

The webinar will also explain how companies can use the EN 50581 standard to manage RoHS2 compliance across their supply chains and to generate the RoHS2 Technical Files for products to provide to their customers and regulators on request. The EN 50581 standard is endorsed by the European Commission as an approved method for managing compliance with EU RoHS2. Regulatory authorities expect companies to adopt the EN 50581 standard or provide evidence that their compliance management system provides equivalent quality levels.