by Aury Hathout

    Are your Electronics Compliant with Environmental Regulations?

    Control of Hazardous Substances in Electronics

    As you can imagine, electronic products usually contain various toxic and hazardous substances. Thus, several jurisdictions have published regulations because of their impacts on the environment and public health.


    RoHS is the Restriction of certain Hazardous Substances in electrical and electronic equipment. Unquestionably, RoHS regulations are the most prevalent ones in the electronic industry. Markets like the European Union, China, India, the United Arab Emirates, Taiwan, Turkey, and Switzerland now have RoHS regulations. EU RoHS is the oldest one. It currently restricts ten substances. Four are heavy metals, two are brominated compounds, and four are phthalates. Most RoHS jurisdictions consider these substances toxic, carcinogens, or persistent organic pollutants. For example, they can be present in various electronic materials, including capacitors, solders, circuit boards, cables, etc.

    POP – Halogen Free

    Specifically, another list regulates chlorinated and brominated compounds. It is the POP list. This list includes Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid and its derivatives (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). PFOS and PFOA are from the PFAS family. PFAS chemicals serve in many applications. For example, they have surfactant properties.


    REACH is another regulation controlling substances. First, REACH means Registration, Evaluation, Authorization, and restriction of Chemicals. The European REACH regulation covers many substances, mixtures, and articles like electronic devices. In short, importers or producers under EU REACH must declare Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs) in their products. Their declarations must appear on a so-called SCIP database under certain conditions.

    California Proposition 65

    Similar to EU REACH, a substances regulation also exists in California. It is the California Proposition 65, or Prop. 65 in its short form. This regulation obliges suppliers to warn about the presence of carcinogenic or reprotoxic substances. Interestingly, the current list of Prop.65 substances has hundreds of chemicals. Many of them occur in our everyday life. Per Prop.65, warning labels before purchase apply to consumer products.


    The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) restricts substances in products at the US federal level. As a result, there are currently five persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT) listed substances, including Phenol, Isopropylated Phosphate (3:1) – PIP (3:1) – that can be present in flame retardant and plasticizer in resins.


    Without a doubt, batteries are likely to contain hazardous substances. They also have a potentially shorter lifespan than electronic products. As a result, several markets heavily regulate batteries, like the EU battery directive.

    Electronic Product Life Cycle

    Control of substances is not only environmental subject matter applicable to electronics. Other concerns arise through electronic products’ life cycles stages. Let’s focus on the Ecodesign and the waste management stages of the electronics life cycle.


    Energy efficiency, reparability, and recyclability all are environmental design parameters. Designers can work on improving them from the initial stage of a product. The European Union is starting to regulate these eco-design initiatives via Directive 2009/125/EC.

    WEEE Compliance

    Waste management of electronics is the final stage of a device’s lifecycle. Nevertheless, this stage is particularly challenging since recyclability rates are not always high. Additionally, a whole illegal industry with developing countries puts the environment and different communities at risk. Consequently, Waste of Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) regulations aim at improving e-waste collection, treatment, and recycling.

    Referring to communities at risk and apart from the environmental compliance issues above, the electronics industry also raises social concerns. Let’s discuss two of them.

    Social Concerns with the Electronics Industry

    Conflict Minerals

    Mines and smelters of strategic minerals in the electronic industry, like gold, tungsten, tantalum, and tin, can be controlled by conflict-affected and high-risk areas. For example, terrorists can take advantage of local populations and finance their illegal activities via the exploitation of mines. As a result, organizations and countries have been developing conflict minerals reporting laws and solutions.

    Aury Hathout

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