Indium Blog

What Happens if US RoHS Happens?

The US House of Representatives bill H.R 2420, affectionately known as US RoHS, was introduced in May of 2009.   From what I can tell, the goal of this bill is to create a uniform law across the USA that also matches the regulations in the EU.  On the surface, this seems like a reasonable idea.  However, the reality is a lot more sketchy.  Although the proposal restricts several materials, the restriction of Pb (lead) is the most significant.  If this legislation were to be passed into law, here are a couple of issues that I see:
  1. Cost of implementation - There are a significant number of small electronics assemblers throughout the USA.  These "mom and pop shops" may only have one or two SMT lines that build for a very specific and niche application.  Many of these products never leave the United States and, therefore, the assembler never had to worry about the EU restrictions.  A quick Internet search can show the millions of dollars that major electronics manufacturers spent on the conversion from Sn/Pb solder to Pb-Free solder.  The cost of compliance will risk putting these small companies out of business.  The last thing the USA needs right now is fewer companies and fewer jobs!
  2. Lack of long term global law uniformity - While this US RoHS bill is set up to match the current EU version, there is already a revision in the works in Europe.  Therefore, there will always be a struggle to globally match other laws.  To make it even more of a challenge, China is also working on their own RoHS law.
  3. Unknown Reliability - The United States has already lost the majority of the high volume, low cost electronics assembly (such as cell phones and computers).  Now the US electronics manufacturing landscape is for predominately medical, military, and automotive applications.  These products usually have much more stringent reliability requirements.  At best, reliability experts will say that the we still don't have enough history to accurately predict the reliability of Pb-Free solders.  However, most also believe that Pb-Free will not be as reliable as Sn/Pb in many applications.
The good news is that it seems that this House Bill is stalled somewhere in our legislation system and there is no indication that it will be passed anytime soon.