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June 7, 2010

EP Committee Votes on Proposed Recast of the RoHS Directive

Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.

On June 2, 2010, the European Parliament (EP) Committee on the Environment, Public Health, and Food Safety approved the proposed recast of the Directive on the Restrictions of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) in Electrical and Electronic Equipment, with 55 votes in favor, one against, and two abstentions. Although the proposal by rapporteur Jill Evans would have added all brominated and chlorinated flame retardants, polyvinyl chloride, chlorinated plasticizers, and three phthalates — butyl benzyl phthalate, di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, and dibutyl phthalate — to the list of prohibited substances in Annex IV of the RoHS Directive, the Committee chose not to support a ban on these chemicals. The Committee adopted amendments adding nanosilver and multi-walled carbon nanotubes to Annex IV, however, despite the fact that nanomaterials were not included in earlier proposals. The Committee also adopted amendments that require equipment containing nanomaterials to be labeled, and for manufacturers to be required to provide safety data on the nanomaterials to the European Commission (EC).

Under Evans’s proposal, a second group of substances (arsenic compounds, beryllium and its compounds, antimony trioxide, dinickel trioxide, bisphenol A, and organochlorines and organobromines other than flame retardants or plasticizers) would be added to Annex III as priority substances to be assessed in the next recast of the Directive as candidates for prohibition. The Committee voted to add these substances to Annex III, and also voted to expand the list by including the substances currently on the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals candidate list of substances of very high concern, which is available online. The Committee voted in favor of an “open scope,” meaning that the RoHS Directive would apply to all electrical equipment, unless specifically excluded.

Under the amended proposal, the EC would review further the environmental and health impacts of substances added to Annex III, with possible restrictions being introduced thereafter. According to the EP Committee, any consideration of substances for possible restriction should be carried out under the responsibility of the EC, using the “delegated acts” procedure. The Committee noted that the EP and EC member states should also be able to propose substances to be examined. The Committee stated that the assessment criteria should include the substance’s potential health and environmental impact. The EP plenary vote on the amended proposal is scheduled for July 2010.