Members of the European Parliament voted to formally approve an agreement recently reached with Council on updating existing legislation for the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) in electronic and electrical equipment (EEE). The updated legislation does not immediately add new substances to the current blacklist of six prohibited substances, but foresees a review by the Commission.
According to the updated legislation, 'nanomaterials' are to be treated with ongoing scrutiny, but are not explicitly restricted at present:
'(16) As soon as scientific evidence is available, and taking into account the precautionary principle, the restriction of other hazardous substances, including any substances of very small size or internal or surface structure (nanomaterials) which may be hazardous due to properties relating to their size or structure, and their substitution by more environmentally friendly alternatives which ensure at least the same level of protection of consumers should be examined. To this end, the review and amendment of the list of restricted substances in Annex II should be coherent, should maximise synergies with, and should reflect the complementary nature of the work carried out under other Union legislation, and in particular under Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 while ensuring the mutually independent functioning of this Directive and that Regulation. Consultation with the relevant stakeholders should be carried out and specific account should be taken of the potential impact on SMEs'.
The adopted text, first agreed by a COREPER (Committee of Permanent Representatives) meeting on the 12 November 2010, represents a significant change from the European Parliament's initial amendments (27 April 2010), which suggested the inclusion of nano-silver and carbon nanotubes in a list of prohibited substances, as well notification & labelling of nanomaterial-containing EEE (follow this link to read the draft report (15 June 2010) of the European Parliament's Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI)). at the time, in an interview with the Royal Society of Chemistry (14 June 2010), Dr Steffi Friedrichs, Director General of the Nanotechnology Industries Association, explained that 'every transistor in a computer chip would [...] include a hazardous substance'.
Discussion continues between Parliament and the Council on an update to the separate legislation on EEE waste management (WEEE).
Follow these links to find out more about RoHS and WEEE Directives recast, to read the full press release on the Parliament decision, or to read the text adopted (1st reading).
Registered NIA Members can download the European Council's compromise offer to the European Parliament (as agreed by the Council on the 12 November 2010).