Chemicals in electronics guidance semi-launched

Joint initiative by chemicals and electronics industry marred by confusion over document's status

Europe's chemical industry suffered embarrassment today when a document offering information to the supply chain on dangerous substances used in the electrical and electronics (E&E) industry was withdrawn by an E&E association hours after having been publicised by chemical industry association Cefic.

Cefic said that the document had been approved after more than two years of talks by the C4E group of chemical and E&E industry associations, which is aiming to develop a common information and "product stewardship system". But Oliver Blank of the European Information and Communications Technology Industry Association (Eicta) expressed surprise that Cefic had publicised the document, which he said had not been finalised.

During the day, Eicta deleted the file from its web site, where it had been posted on behalf of the whole C4E group. Mr Blank said that "two to three" issues had still to be finalised; he expected full approval of the document in a few weeks. ENDS Daily obtained a copy of the document before it was withdrawn, which readers can link to below.

The reasons for the confusion between the two organisations are unclear, but apparently revolve around difficulties in achieving a consensus view on what risk reduction measures are appropriate for particular substances. According to Cefic, the initiative had its roots in listing of a number of chemicals of concern by an E&E industry association in 1994, which it said today had been "based on incomplete scientific and technical information".

The "guidance document" on substances "under special attention" lists 15 substances or groups of substances, including reasons for health or safety concerns, an evaluation and recommendations, plus a summary of current public policy approaches in OECD countries.

The substances include lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium and two brominated flame retardants (DBDE and OBDE), all now slated for phase-out in the EU under a directive formally proposed in June to restrict the use of hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment (ENDS Daily 13 June). Further sections on antimony trioxide and PVC are under preparation.

The document marked a positive step towards informed dialogue on chemicals used in the E&E sector, said Ute Jensen-Korte of Cefic. She added that it could be a model for the chemical industry to follow with other major customer groups. The information presented was aimed at helping companies during the planning and design phase of products, but was not a guide to substitution, she added.

In addition to Cefic and Eicta, the members of C4E comprise electronic component manufacturers (Eeca), consumer electronic manufacturers (Eacem) and metals producers (Eurometaux).

Follow Up:
Cefic, tel: +32 2 676 7211; Eicta, tel: +32 2 706 8470. See also the Guidance document on the appliance of substances under special attention in electric and electronic products.

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