RoHS: Keeping the World Safe

The European Union (EU) member states have long been interested in resolving environmental problems and promoting the movements of regulating harmful substances contained in telecommunication equipment and computer products. Accordingly, they issued the Directive on the Restriction of the use of certain Hazardous Substances in electrical and electronic equipment also known as the RoHS Directive. In this post, you will find the substances of the directive and a description of each.

This law became effective in July 2006. Since then, only the products that have passed the criteria of this directive are allowed for export. The table below shows the restricted substances and their concentration level permitted.

Restricted substances and maximum permitted concentration defined in RoHS Directive

No. Substances Subject Items and Application Threshold Value
1 Cadmium and its compounds Cadmium contained in alloys with zinc content (brass, zinc, die cast, lead-free solder, etc.), plating, plastic, rubber, coating, etc. 100 ppm or less
Exemption Cadmium and its compound in electrical contacts and cadmium plating except for the uses prohibited under 91/338/EEC which is a revision of the EU directive EEC
(No limit)
2 Lead and its compounds Lead contained in all types of alloys, solder, all items other than the following exemptions 1000 ppm or less
Exemption Lead which is alloyed with steel 3500 ppm or less
Lead which is alloyed with aluminum 4000 ppm or less
Lead which is alloyed with copper 40000 ppm or less
Lead used in solders which contains more than or equal to 85% of lead
(No limit)
3 Mercury and its compounds Mercury contained in all items aside from small fluorescent light bulbs and straight-tube fluorescent light bulbs 1000 ppm or less
4 Hexavalent chromium and its compounds All Hexavalent chromium in chromate treatment, plating, coating, etc. Chromium metal and chrome in metal alloys are exempted. 1000 ppm or less
5 Polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs) Flame retardant 1000 ppm or less
6 Polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDEs) Flame retardant 1000 ppm or less

Use of cadmium has been banned for electroplating. However, cadmium has been used as a stabilizer for plastics.

A slight amount of hexavalent chromium is present in the chromate film as a result of using the treatment liquid containing this material during the chromate treatment after applying zinc plating on steel screws, chassis, and metallic parts. Hexavalent chromium was also used for chemical conversion coating applied to aluminum alloy and magnesium alloy in order to improve anticorrosion properties. Currently, trivalent chromium is an alternative chemical for hexavalent chromium. However, the ultimate goal is to eliminate chromium in the products regardless of what type of ionic form it is.

Mercury is never used for surface treatment processes. However, because some of the batteries contain mercury, they are the restriction target of this directive.

The lead regulation mainly targets the lead content in tin-lead alloy solder used for attaching parts to printed circuit boards or tin-lead alloy solder plating applied to soldered areas. In addition to this, the lead content was also found as pigments in coating films and plastic materials.

The use of lead in solder itself or solder plating has become obsolete. Instead, using tin-silver or tin-copper alloy solder and ternary/quaternary alloy seems to be common nowadays.

Polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs) and Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are added to the plastic materials that make up printed circuit boards and used as flame retardants.

In recent years, more and more corporations are asked from their clients to present the analysis result of product content concerning these restricted substances. If you perform an official analysis (concentration measurement by dissolving a certain weight of sample into “agua regia” – a mixture of nitric acid and hydrochloric acid and diluting it with pure water) in the units of ppm, it requires tremendous cost and time. Therefore, the atomic absorption analysis or ICP emission spectrometric analysis will be selected for heavy metal products. For organic materials such as PBB, the gas chromatography mass spectrometry will be adopted.

The effective analysis method in terms of the time and cost is to perform a simplified analysis to check for an existence of the restricted substances first. Then, perform the official analysis only when such content was found. The fluorescent X-ray analysis is a common method of the simplified analysis.

For further information regarding RoHS, please visit For more information regarding, MISUMI’s RoHS compliance please visit

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One Comment

  1. Ankit Bhatnagar

    March 26, 2018 at 5:30 am

    Very informative article on elements.


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