Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) – What You Need to Know

What is the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive?

The Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive is regulation that places limits on the use of certain substances in consumer products. The EU introduced RoHS in 2003. At the beginning, it covered only six substances. Since then, it has expanded in scope to include four more. The regulation now applies to all of the countries in the EU as well as the UK.

What is the purpose of RoHS?

RoHS seeks to ensure that electrical and electronic waste does not present a threat to humans or the environment. European regulators developed RoHS in response to the spread of digital technology. Devices like laptops and mobile phones often contain hazardous substances.

Concerns about sustainability and waste influenced the development of the RoHS regulation. At the same time, the EU developed waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) regulation. The two are closely related and you can find out more about WEEE regulation in our dedicated post.

Which substances are restricted under RoHS?

RoHS regulation places restrictions on ten substances. They are:

  • cadmium
  • lead
  • mercury
  • hexavalent chromium
  • polybrominated biphenyls
  • polybrominated diphenyl ethers
  • bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate
  • benzyl butyl phthalate
  • dibutyl phthalate
  • diisobutyl phthalate

Each of the ten restricted substances has a specific limit under the regulation. For the specific amounts that are permitted, consult the European Union website.

How do I comply with RoHS?

RoHS regulation applies to manufacturers, distributors and importers to differing extents. The primary obligation placed on manufacturers is to ensure that the substance limits are not exceeded. But that isn’t everything. Manufacturers may need to organise testing of their products and they must collect proper documentation.

Importers and distributors have responsibilities under the RoHS directive too. As part of the enforcement of the regulation, they must check that products they handle comply with the regulation. Since 2011, compliance with RoHS is required for placing the CE marking on a product. No separate marking or symbol indicates RoHS compliance. For more information about the CE marking, see our dedicated post.

Where can I find more information about RoHS?

Detailed information is available on the European Union website. For the UK context, you can also visit the UK government website. Since the implementation of the RoHS regulation, information has become widely available online. For example, you can find a specific guide to RoHS compliance here.

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