The European Commission has begun consulting on applications by European Union (EU) industrialists to continue using lead, mercury, cadmium and hexavalent chromium for certain processes after a ban on their exploitation in electronics is imposed next July.
EU directive 2002/95/EC on hazardous substances in electronic equipment allows exemptions where there are no effective alternatives.
As a result, a series of applications for formal exemptions have been made. These include using mercury in switches; tin-lead solder on professional equipment leads; hexavalent chromium in chromate conversion coatings; cadmium-bearing copper alloys; and others. Brussels wants to check whether there really are no other viable alternatives.
It says lead, mercury, cadmium or hexavalent chromium can only be used in vehicle materials and components, when specifically approved.
Ministers have now accepted calls from the car industry for some additional flexibility, especially regarding lead. For instance, regarding aluminium alloys, ministers have approved using lead content to 1.5% by weight until July 2008. They have also permanently allowed lead content below 0.5% by weight for bonding agents connecting elastomer ducts or parts, among other concessions.