EU moves to phase out hazardous materials in electronics

Some of the chemicals used in electronic products need to be reviewed, members of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee have said.

The call comes as committee members claim they are worried about the effects that PVC, BFRs and other substances used in electronics  can pose to people’s health or the environment – both when they are being made and when they are disposed of.

The committee also called for a further evaluation for a number of substances that are not currently restricted, including halogenated flame retardants. Jill Evans (Greens/EFA, UK), the MEP guiding the legislation through Parliament, said: “I am glad that, despite heavy pressure from the chemical industry, the Environment Committee has today voted for certain problematic substances to be highlighted for further review and a possible ban.”

The committee also said that any consideration of substances for possible restriction should be carried out under the responsibility of the European Commission, using the “delegated acts” procedure, but the European Parliament or Member States should also be able to propose substances to be examined. Furthermore, the assessment criteria should include the substance’s potential health and environmental impact.

Greenpeace, which has been instrumental in pushing to phase these materials out of the electronics industry for many years, has welcomed the move.

Iza Kruszewska, Toxics Campaigner at the organisation told TechEye: “We welcome this step towards leveling the so called ´legal playing field’ as it will ensure that leaders in the electronics sector that have taken voluntary action to remove these toxic chemicals  are not left at a competitive disadvantage.

“However it’s time the major companies in the electronics supply chain sit up and pay attention.

 “Although over 50 percent of the EU market players in computers and over 80 percent in mobile phones will be out of PVC and BFRs in the next year, this ban could address many more products. This will lead to massive demand for safer alternatives, so suppliers that invest in providing materials and components to this sector now will gain a competitive advantage”.

The committee’s recommendations will be put to the vote in the European Parliament in July.