April 03, 2008
| by Steven Castle
Last week multiroom audio manufacturer Russound announced that its products are now compliant with the Restriction of the Use of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive.
What is RoHS? Basically, it’s a compact among European Union countries that severely limits the use of substances such as lead, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, mercury, and flame-retardant brominated compounds in electronics products—and it is having far-reaching implications. Several Asian countries have adopted their own versions of RoHS, but so far the United States has adopted no such restrictions, except for California’s RoHS law that went into effect in 2007 and is narrower in scope to the EU’s RoHS. Because the influence of the RoHS standard, many large electronics manufacturers, as well as electronics parts suppliers, have adopted RoHS standards on a global scale, so it is becoming de facto worldwide standard.
RoHS is often called the lead-free directive, because lead, particularly lead solder, has been so prevalent in electronics manufacturing. Materials like lead and its byproducts, cadmium, and mercury can leach out of landfills and contaminate groundwater resources. All are highly toxic and pose serious health hazards.
Our electronics have traditionally been filled with these substances—until now. And eliminating them has been a tall task for many electronics manufacturers. “Every product had to be looked at,” says Russound director of product development Andy Lewis, of the two-year process the company undertook to become RoHS-compliant. Every parts supplier had to be checked to be sure they were complying with RoHS standards. All solder on circuit boards has to be lead-free. Little to no cadmium could be used in the plating of metals. And the same for brominated flame-retardants used in plastics.
Lewis said the company even eliminated an amplifier design and went with another, due to its goal to become RoHS-compliant.
Russound was also spurred by its increasing European market, which Lewis says has grown from about 1 percent to 20 percent of the company’s sales since the year 2000. Though we’re pretty sure Russound also did this because it’s the right thing to do.
Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates