What is RoHS Compliance?

Seems like there are a million little badges on your average piece of computer hardware. What’s more the badge-a-palooza has migrated to otherwise simple devices like light bulbs. RoHS compliance seems to show up on an increasing number of devices lately. I did a little digging and discovered a lot to like about RoHS.

It’s actually a European directive aimed toward the “Restriction of Hazardous Substances.” The idea is that the product has only trace amounts (or no amount at all) of six poisonous substances:

Lead (Pb)
Mercury (Hg)
Cadmium (Cd)
Hexavalent chromium (Cr6+)
Polybrominated biphenyls (PBB)
Polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE)

While all of these are chemicals or elements found in nature, they are all poisonous to plants and animals in anything but tiny amounts. They’re also commonly found in things like light bulbs, batteries, circuit boards, and are used in the manufacture of the plastic and metal conveniences we take for granted.

RoHS went into effect in 2006 and it turns out it’s a pretty tough standard to meet. If one component fails, the entire part fails, and if the part fails, the whole thing fails. Put it this way. If one capacitor in the radio isn’t RoHS compliant, the whole car isn’t RoHS compliant. It’s that tough.

RoHS compliance is a big thing because almost everything in our modern world wears out or becomes obsolete in a fairly short period of time. Lead or cadmium can poison a stream for decades, due to batteries that only lasted a month. No matter who you are or where you fall on the political spectrum, that seems like a bad deal, right? Manufacturing processes that avoid the use of harmful chemicals just seem like the better way to go.