Allied Encyclopedia – RoHS and REACH

Allied EncyclopediaRoHS

RoHS stands for the “Restriction of Hazardous Substances.” It is a directive that limits the use of potentially harmful substances in electrical and electronic equipment. RoHS was established in an attempt to combat human health problems and environmental damage caused by consumer electronics waste, a global issue.

The waste problem is a pressing concern because, as new technology is released more frequently, consumers replace and dispose of their used electronics more often. These products end up in landfills or are shipped off to other countries where their hazardous waste damages the earth and gives workers in the recycling plants heavy metal poisoning.

The RoHS initiative was adopted by the European Union in February 2003 and went into effect on July 1, 2006, requiring each of the EU member states to make it an enforced law.

RoHS is sometimes referred to as the lead-free directive, but it really restricts six substances:

  1. Lead (Pb)
  2. Mercury (Hg)
  3. Cadmium (Cd)
  4. Hexavalent Chromium (Cr6+)
  5. Polybrominated biphenyls (PBB)
  6. Polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE)

Under RoHS, these substances can be present in a maximum concentration of 0.1% or 1000 ppm (except for cadmium, which is limited to 0.01% or 100 ppm) in any homogeneous material (one that could be physically separated from other substances).
The restrictions apply to electronics and electronic components in the following categories:

  1. Large and small household appliances
  2. IT equipment
  3. Telecommunications equipment (however, infrastructure equipment is exempt in some countries)
  4. Consumer equipment
  5. Lighting equipment—including light bulbs
  6.  Electronic and electrical tools
  7. Toys, leisure, and sports equipment
  8. Medical devices (currently exempt, pending further research)
  9. Monitoring and control instruments (currently exempt, pending further research)
  10. Automatic dispensers

Some of the common products that had to change in compliance with RoHS included the leaded glass in TV screens and camera lenses, PVC cables (like power cords and USB cables) that used lead as a stabilizer, and leaded solders.

It is the responsibility of the company who puts the final product up for sale to ensure that it complies with RoHS standards.


REACH stands for “Registration, Evaluation, and Authorization of Chemicals.” It is legislation aimed at making businesses responsible for proving that the chemicals they use are safe. It is also designed to inspire the chemical industry to research new and safer substitutes for hazardous substances.

The legislation went into effect on June 1, 2007 with a plan to be phased in over the next eleven years.

Under REACH, manufacturers and importers are required to conduct research on the chemical properties of the substances they use to ensure that they are used safely. They are then required to report their findings to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) to be logged into a central public database of hazard information.

Once substances are proven hazardous, REACH requires that they be phased out and replaced by any existing non-hazardous alternatives.

Current REACH list


REACH and RoHS are both European Union directives created to limit the use of hazardous substances in product manufacture, but major differences in scope and implementation set their restrictions apart.

RoHS restrictions apply only to electrical equipment that falls within the scope of the directive (the ten categories of products listed in the RoHS section). However, REACH restrictions apply to a wider scope — all chemicals, including the ones used in making electronic equipment and the ones that appear in finished products. Very few substances are excluded.

There are also major differences in what it takes for each kind of restriction to be put into effect. RoHS substance restrictions can be put in place if there is a possible risk to human health or the environment, and another material can be used to replace the potentially harmful substance. On the other hand, REACH restrictions can only be put in place if something is proven to damage human health or the environment. For a REACH restriction to go into effect, an in-depth risk assessment must be done, showing the effects of the substance over the course of its life cycle and exploring possible substitutes for its use.

As we can see, RoHS and REACH have similar goals of preventing damage to human health and the environment, but they achieve those goals in different ways.

About awcwire
Allied Wire & Cable is a value-added manufacturer and distributor of electrical wire and cable, tubing, and more. We are a family owned and operated company, serving a wide range of industries, including the military, automotive, aerospace, and telecommunications markets. Allied is headquartered in Collegeville, PA. Additional locations can be found across the US, in Merrimack, NH, Tampa, FL, Pewaukee, WI, and Las Vegas, NV. For more information on Allied, visit our main website at

One Response to Allied Encyclopedia – RoHS and REACH

  1. Pingback: Allied Encyclopedia: RoHS Revisited – A Look at RoHS 2 | Allied Wire & Cable Blog

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