Hazardous materials escape European ban

Hazardous materials

A key European parliamentary committee today voted against banning the use of brominated flame retardants (BFR) and PVC in electronic products, despite mounting industry pressure.

The Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety voted on the Restrictions of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive which saw MEPs agree on many areas, such as an "open scope" approach to include all electronic equipment in future legislation, unless specifically excluded, and the introduction of new methodologies to judge future products.

However, the Committee called for further evaluations to be carried out on the two substances rather than voting for an outright ban.

Last month Acer, Dell, HP and Sony Ericsson said they had teamed up with ChemSec, Clean Production Action and the European Environmental Bureau to push for a ban on BFR and PVC, which they believe pose serious risks to health and the environment.

Frida Hk, the RoHS project manager at ChemSec, said in a statement: "The potential [for BFR and PVC] to release hazardous substances to the environment, through transformation into dioxins, was recognised by the MEPs in the wording of the methodology for possible future restrictions but they were not included on the RoHS restrictions list."

"It is remarkable that the environment committee did not decide to contribute to phase out the use of these hazardous chemicals."

Jill Evans, the UK MEP leading the RoHS directive, supported the ban but was still pleased with today's outcome, claiming it would be the "first step in phasing them out."

Another controversial move by the Committee was the exclusion of renewable energy generation devices, such as solar panels, from any upcoming legislation.

Nardono Nimpuno, senior advisor at ChemSec, said in a statement: "The blanket exclusion of solar panels is a rather strange move by the committee."

"We fully support transitions into renewable energies, however many solar technologies make use of highly problematic chemicals. To exclude them from the scope of RoHS might not be the best incentive to invest in cleaner technologies."

Evans backed the exclusion of renewable energy equipment from the Directive. She said: "I think common sense has prevailed, in that renewable energy technologies will be excluded from the directive with a review due in 2014."

The European Parliament is set to vote on the Committee's recommendations on 5 July.

Jennifer Scott

Jennifer Scott is a former freelance journalist and currently political reporter for Sky News. She has a varied writing history, having started her career at Dennis Publishing, working in various roles across its business technology titles, including ITPro. Jennifer has specialised in a number of areas over the years and has produced a wealth of content for ITPro, focusing largely on data storage, networking, cloud computing, and telecommunications.

Most recently Jennifer has turned her skills to the political sphere and broadcast journalism, where she has worked for the BBC as a political reporter, before moving to Sky News.