Check your connectors: A group of phthalates will be restricted by European Union nations starting in July. This directive will impact a variety of plastic electronic products.
The environmental compliance directive known as the EU Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) is expanding. In 2019, four new substances are being added to the list of materials that are banned from electronics destined for Europe: bis (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), butyl benzyl phthalate (BBP), dibutyl phthalate (DBP), and diisobutyl phthalate (DIBP). These four phthalates will bring the total number of substances restricted under RoHS for most electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) to 10, effective July 22, 2019.
Phthalates are used to enhance the flexibility and longevity of plastics. However, phthalates can escape into the environment during the manufacturing process, as well as leach out of the products they are used in. They can act as endocrine disruptors and have been found to have a negative impact on human health, including prenatal and child development. These four soon-to-be restricted phthalates have technically been restricted since 2015, although a grace period enabled manufacturers and designers to innovate and specify alternate materials. A continuing grace period will extend only to medical devices, monitoring and control instruments, and industrial monitoring and control instruments; however, those restrictions will become effective on July 22, 2021, so companies working in the medical market should be seeking alternate solutions now.
We spoke with the ECIA Global Industry Practices Committee to learn more about the impact of this latest reach of RoHS.
The electronics industry has known these changes would come. Does it appear that most companies are prepared?
Yes, many of our suppliers have already made changes to eliminate these phthalates.
What steps can they take now to be in compliance by the deadline?
Check current inventory and negotiate for alternatives if required. Also require RoHS compliance on new purchases.
What types of components are most impacted by this latest change to RoHS?
Any component with plastic is susceptible. For example, connector housings and wire coatings.
What materials are being used as alternatives for the soon-to-be non-compliant substances?
Common alternatives include Hexamoll DINCH (DINCH), acetyl tributyl citrate (ATBC), dioctyl terephthalate (DOTP), 2,2,4-trimethyl 1,3-pentanediol diisobutyrate (TXIB), trioctyl trimellitate (TOTM), and di-(2-ethylhexyl) adipate (DEHA).
What will happen to components that have already been produced but are no longer RoHS-compliant?
These components and electronic products that include them will not be allowed as imports to the EU.
Why is the grace period longer for medical applications?
The EU directive states that the longer innovation cycles for medical devices should be taken into account.
What other products or applications will have extensions or exemptions?
Both medical and industrial monitoring and control instruments are exempt until July 22, 2021.
What other upcoming changes to RoHS should the electronics community anticipate?
Article 24(2) of 2011/65/EU states that a general review and, if needed, recast of the current RoHS Directive must occur by July 22, 2021. That recast, should it occur, will be known as RoHS 3.