Is It the Right Time to Overhaul Banned Substances Lists?
The provisions that attracted the most attention are the possible amendments in Article 4 regarding restricted substances (Annex IV), the review process following the REACH 1907/2006/EC methodology and Article 6a concerning the list of substances (Annex III) that will have priority to be considered as restricted substances in the next revision of the Directive.
In December 2009, a draft report on the proposal for RoHS recast, the EU Parliament Rapporteur suggested including the following items into Annex IV as banned substances:
- Brominated flame retardants
- Chlorinated flame retardants
- Polyvinylchloride (PVC)
- Chlorinated plasticisers
- Bis (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP)
- Butylbenzylphthalate (BBP)
- Dibutylphthalate (DBP)
On June 2, 2010, the European Parliament Environmental Committee voted against the inclusion of the above into Annex IV, instead, some of them, for instances PVC and phthalates, were proposed for inclusion in Annex III for further evaluation. Still, the final RoHS recast could include a substantially extended list of priority substances in Annex III, with special attention to REACH candidate list of substances of very high concern (SVHC). The substances below may be considered as priority in Annex III:
- Arsenic compounds
- Beryllium and its compounds
- Antimony trioxide
- Dinickel trioxide - electrical & electronics
- SVHC in REACH candidate list
- Diisobutylphthalate (DIBP)
Impose Restrictions Without Safer Alternatives? There is an ongoing discussion as to whether this is the right time to impose greater restrictions on the use of dangerous substances. Policy makers and environmental advocates have on one hand emphasized the importance of restricting the use of toxic substances to compel industries to invest in environmentally friendly chemicals as well as green technologies.
On the other hand, stakeholders try to persuade policy makers and support their viewpoint with scientific studies which prove that safe alternatives do not exist or may shift hazards from the environment to another topic.
PVC for example is not a hazardous substance in itself. It is the additives included in the polymer and the end of life treatment that bring it in focus. It is known that cables made of PVC will have a higher chance of containing phthalates as additives that provide flexibility.
As PVC is being included on the list of substances for further evaluation, the industry is now trying to convince authorities that PVC would be a safe material if the problematic additives were replaced. Another argument that stakeholders put forward relates to electrical safety. Any replacement for PVC cables must prove its long term stability and flexibility in order to avoid material brittleness and subsequent surges from freely accessible current.
The discussion on further substance restrictions is still open, but as most EEE wastes are often shipped to third world countries for “recycling” purposes, it is clear that new hazardous substance restriction requirements would not only benefit European consumers but also people in other parts of the world.
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