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July 7, 2006 • Vol.28 Issue 27
Page(s) 28 in print issue

RoHS Deadline Arrives
What Does The EU RoHS Legislation Mean For Your Data Center?
After much hoopla and fanfare, the EU RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) legislation has gone into effect. Unless you have been hiding under a rock or just arrived on planet earth, you should be well-versed in this EU law aimed at protecting the environment from hazardous substances typically found in electronic equipment.

As of July 1, six substances are no longer allowed to be used in products sold in the EU. The six substances are lead, cadmium, mercury, hexavalent chromium, PBB (polybrominated biphenyls), and PBDE (polybrominated diphenyl ethers). This impacts data centers because they use computer technology that relies heavily on lead-based solder and other components to create chips and motherboards.

There are some exceptions to the EU legislation. Certain industries, such as aerospace, military, medical, and portions of the telecommunications industry, are exempt from complying with RoHS. Even in industries that fall under the RoHS mandates, there are exceptions in some instances.

Complying With RoHS

The prosecution and penalties associated with noncompliance are being enforced at the local level, so an RoHS violation in Germany may be different from an RoHS violation in the United Kingdom.

Even though the legislation is in force, there are still ambiguity and many looming questions about how to comply or demonstrate compliance. According to Holly Evans of Strategic Counsel, companies need to perform a “good legal assessment of product scope determinationare you in or out? If out, get documents to shield [the company] from ambiguity. If in, start building due diligence defense both internally and externally with supply chain.” This due diligence defense should include certificates of compliance from suppliers, partners, or other entities that contribute to products manufactured or distributed in the EU.

The Impact Of RoHS

Even companies that do not manufacture or distribute electronic equipment in the EU may find that the RoHS legislation impacts them. For example, if one of your component suppliers is in the EU or if you purchase electronic equipment manufactured in the EU, the RoHS mandates will have a peripheral impact on you.

One thing to note is that repair parts for equipment that already existed prior to the RoHS legislation taking effect are exempt. If you have legacy equipment with lead solder components, you should still be able to get lead solder components to replace them with. But if an entire system or device needs to be replaced, you may find that you can only replace it with RoHS-compliant components.

RoHS Spreading Around The World

It may be entirely possible that your company neither manufactures or distributes products in the EU nor purchases products that have been manufactured in the EU. However, that doesn’t get you out of the woods.

Japan and California both have existing environmental legislation that they are in the process of expanding to more closely emulate RoHS. And China and South Korea are both scheduled to implement RoHS-like legislation next year. The China RoHS law is said to be very similar to the EU law, except that China has fewer exemptions and loopholes.

Even if the EU RoHS does not affect you, it is almost a certainty that at least one of the pending laws and regulations will affect your company within the next year. It would be wise for all companies to familiarize themselves with RoHS and similar legislation and be aware of how it impacts them and whether they are required to be in compliance.

Strategic Counsel’s Evans warns that the price for noncompliance with RoHS, or other environmental legislation around the world, could be “lost customersboth business and consumer, bad public relations, lost supply chain reputation, and, of course, criminal and civil liability.”

by Tony Bradley

The Impact Of RoHS “Across The Pond”

The RoHS legislation only covers countries in the European Union. So why should companies in the United States care? The fact is, the regulations only apply to Europe, but countries throughout the world that sell or distribute products in Europe, or even supply components to companies that sell or distribute products in Europe, need to be aware of and compliant with RoHS.

Another reason for companies in the United States to pay attention to RoHS is that environmental legislation modeled after RoHS is pending in countries throughout the world. The state of California already has environmental restrictions with SB20/SB50, but it is looking to expand the scope and impact of its laws, and the United States is considering environmental restrictions on electronic components at a federal level.

Other countries such as Japan, South Korea, Australia, and China also have legislation in place or pending. With concern for the environment going global, companies will be impacted by legislation such as RoHS if they manufacture and distribute electronic equipment or even as consumers who use electronic equipment.

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