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Navigating Compliance for Electrical, Electronic Products

As countries worldwide respond to and mitigate the dangers posed by hazardous substances, staying on top of compliance can be a complex challenge for electric and electronics companies.

UL Solutions laboratory scientist.

May 17, 2024

Chemical regulations for electrical and electronic products are complex. It can prove challenging for stakeholders along the supply chain to track and manage their compliance. The challenge becomes global as regulatory requirements vary widely from state to state and across multiple countries.

Different regulatory bodies worldwide have established frameworks addressing how to manage hazardous chemicals. Some of these frameworks specifically address chemicals related to electrical and electronic products, while others generally address chemicals and chemical management.

Key chemical regulations for electronic and electrical products include different Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) legislation, such as those in China, the European Union (EU), Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. These rules regulate the hazardous substances used in electric and electronic equipment (EEE) manufacturing.

In addition, the European Directive 2012/19/ EU on Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment (WEEE) regulates the disposal of such equipment. All applicable products for the European market must comply with the WEEE directive’s requirements and, for example, carry the wheelie bin symbol as identified by the legislation and applicable standard.

Moreover, consumer electronics manufacturers need to consider various battery regulations; California Proposition 65; the Chemicals of High Concern in Children’s Products (CHCC) rule required in certain states within the United States (U.S.); the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) regulation; the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) regulation in the EU; the U.S. Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA); and, recent to the list, restrictions relating to per- and polyfluorinated substances (PFAS).

PFAS: the “forever chemicals”

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) comprise thousands of manufactured substances used to make fluoropolymer coatings and products that resist water, dirt, oil, heat, stains and grease. The retail industry uses them to manufacture water-repellent and stain-resistant articles. They can be used in electronics, textiles, food packaging, cosmetics and many other products.

Concerns about the impact of PFAS on the environment and human health have led to increased attention from the public, governments and technical committees responsible for safety and environmental standards. PFAS, also known as “forever chemicals,” are highly persistent in the environment and can pose hazards to humans and animals. In response to these concerns, new global chemical regulations have been introduced to control the use of certain PFAS for specific applications.

It is crucial to reduce the exposure of humans and the environment to these toxic substances. Currently, no regulation for electrical and electronic products specifically defines a list of banned PFAS substances, though some PFAS — e.g., perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) — are restricted by certain regulations. However, the U.S. and EU are the front runners for establishing regulations around PFAS.

In the U.S., the TSCA authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate chemicals, including PFAS. The TSCA supplies a framework for regulating chemicals used in various industries, including the electric and electronic industries.

Last October, the EPA published a final reporting and record-keeping rule for PFAS, establishing a one-time reporting requirement for any entity that has manufactured or imported a chemical substance, mixture or article containing PFAS for commercial purposes at any time from 2011 through December 31, 2022. The submission period will run from November 12, 2024, to May 8, 2025, for all others subject to reporting.

U.S. state regulations

Many state legislatures within the U.S. are acting to mitigate the use of these chemicals in various consumer products. Several states have already adopted policies prohibiting the intentional addition of PFAS across multiple consumer products. Maine is the first state to pass legislation for all products prohibiting the use of intentionally added PFAS in new products, with the law coming into effect in 2030.

Another example of a state regulation that may affect the electric and electronic industry is California’s Assembly Bill (AB) Number 1200 (AB1200). California AB1200 requires manufacturers of listed cookware sold in the state to disclose information on intentionally added chemicals from a designated list of chemicals found in the product’s food-contact components and handles. As of January 1, 2023, this law requires cookware manufacturers to identify chemicals on their website. And, as of January 1, 2024, manufacturers of cookware sold in the state must identify intentionally added chemicals from that list on the product label.

It is important to know that the “designated list” referred to in this legislation means “the list of chemicals identified as candidate chemicals that exhibit a hazard trait or an environmental or toxicological endpoint that meets the criteria specified in regulations adopted by the [California] Department of Toxic Substances Control pursuant to Article 14 (commencing with Section 25251) of Chapter 6.5 of Division 20, and is published on the Department of Toxic Substances Control’s internet website pursuant to those regulations.” This list includes PFAS substances as well as other chemicals.

The view from Europe

In the EU, REACH and POP legislation and the Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC list) target PFAS. The POPs regulations regulate PFOS and its derivatives, PFOA as well as its salts, and PFOA-related compounds, and perfluorohexanesulphonic acid (PFHxS). REACH Annex XVII, Entry 68, restricts perfluorinated carboxylic acids (C9-14 PFCAs), their salts and precursors. Several PFAS substances are on the REACH Candidate List of substances of very high concern. That list also includes PFOA; C9-14PFCAs; perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFBS) and its salts, a replacement of PFOS; and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFHpA) and its salts. The current larger proposals for restriction will cover many substances, including fluoropolymers, with specific exemptions and different dates of entry into force for particular uses.

Navigating regulations and maintaining compliance

UL Solutions provides holistic chemical resources for electrical and electronic products to help companies enhance safety across the supply chain, meet sustainability initiatives and demonstrate regulatory compliance. We can help manufacturers navigate regulations and mitigate compliance risks through a broad chemical management, advisory and training, and data management services portfolio. Manufacturers and retailers can work with experts to develop a Restricted Substance List (RSL) and reduce the risk of non-compliant goods on the market.

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