RoHS in the United States: Understanding Global Restriction of Hazardous Substances in Electronics

Table of Contents

What Is RoHS?

RoHS stands for Restriction of Hazardous Substances and restricts the use of several hazardous materials in electronic and electrical equipment. The RoHS directive was originally issued in the European Union but similar laws have been passed in other countries, including the U.S.

RoHS laws in the U.S. work to reduce the negative environmental and health effects of hazardous substances by restricting their use in electronics.

Generally, the European Union’s RoHS directive is stricter and has a wider scope, but many RoHS regulations in the U.S. are modeled after the EU directive.

Federal Versus State RoHS Legislation in the U.S.

The United States does not have a federal RoHS law. In 2009, the Environmental Design of Electrical Equipment Act (EDEE) Act was introduced in Congress as an amendment to the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976. The bill restricted the manufacturing and importation of electronic products containing more than 1000ppm lead, mercury, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyls (PBB), and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE), and more than 100ppm cadmium. The bill did not receive a vote, and did not become law.

Instead, eight U.S. states have implemented their own RoHS legislation. The states with an RoHS-like laws are:

  • California
  • New Jersey
  • Illinois 
  • Indiana
  • Minnesota 
  • New York 
  • Rhode Island
  • Wisconsin

Although each state law mirrors the others, the laws do differ from state to state. All electronic and electrical products sold in these states must comply with the state’s respective RoHS law.

Types of RoHS Regulation in the U.S.

RoHS-related regulations in the U.S. can be split into three categories based on how strict the regulation is. This includes: 1) “true RoHS regulation” that restricts the sale of electronics containing hazardous substances, 2) regulation that allows restricted substances but creates manufacturer reporting requirements, or 3) e-waste regulation with no restriction of substances or reporting requirements.

This article focuses only on the first two categories, as they are directly related to restriction of hazardous substances in electronics, rather than electronic waste.

  1. “True” RoHS regulation: California’s and New Jersey’s RoHS regulations limit the sale of video display products that contain higher than allowed amounts of restricted substances.
  2. Manufacturer reporting requirements: Other states, such as Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, New York, Rhode Island and Wisconsin, have e-waste regulations that also include reporting requirements for manufacturers. While hazardous substances are not restricted in electronics, they must still be reported when used above a certain threshold.
  3. E-waste regulation: Lastly, several states, such as Colorado, have electronic waste legislation in place (similar to the EU’s WEEE directive) that regulates the disposal of electronics, but does not restrict the use of hazardous materials in electronics like RoHS does, nor does it require manufacturer reporting. 

Read more about the difference between restriction of hazardous substances and e-waste directives: RoHS Versus WEEE

California

california flag - california rohs

California RoHS regulation went into effect January 1, 2007, and is one of the earliest examples of RoHS legislation in the United States. Included in California Senate Bills No. 20 and No. 50, RoHS regulations in California are modeled on the EU’s RoHS directive. 

Not only does California’s RoHS law mirror much of EU RoHS regulation, but in some cases, California’s legislation bases its regulation directly on the EU directive. For example, Senate Bill 20 states that if a product is prohibited from being sold in the EU due to the presence of heavy metals, it should also be prohibited in California.

The bills also include requirements for e-waste similar to the EU’s WEEE regulation. Read more: What is WEEE?

Restricted Substances

California’s RoHS law creates Maximum Containment Values (MCVs) for four heavy metals. The amount of these four heavy metals in covered electronic devices may not exceed the set MCV. Metals restricted by California RoHS are:

  • Lead (MCV: 0.1% by weight) 
  • Mercury (MCV: 0.1% by weight) 
  • Hexavalent chromium (MCV: 0.1% by weight) 
  • Cadmium (MCV: 0.01% by weight)

The MCV applies not to the final electronic product or components, but to each homogenous material (a material that cannot be separated into different materials) used to create the device.

Restricted Products

California RoHS restricts the use of restricted substances in covered electronic devices (CED). The California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) defines a covered electronic device as “a video display device with a screen greater than four inches, measured diagonally.” 

Crucial components of video display devices (devices that cannot be easily removed from the display) are also subject to California RoHS.

California RoHS divides covered electronic devices restricted by the legislation into several categories:

  1. Cathode ray tube containing devices (CRT devices)
  2. Cathode ray tubes (CRTs)
  3. Computer monitors containing CRTs
  4. Laptop computers with liquid crystal display (LCD)
  5. LCD containing desktop monitors
  6. Televisions containing CRTs
  7. Televisions containing LCD screens
  8. Plasma televisions
  9. Portable DVD players with LCD screens

The scope of products restricted by California RoHS is much smaller than the EU scope of restricted products, which includes all electric and electronic equipment.

Exemptions

If a covered electronic device is not covered by the EU RoHS directive, then it is not restricted by California’s RoHS law either. This means that any exemptions to EU RoHS also apply to California RoHS. 

Read more about EU RoHS exemptions: What is ‘RoHS Compliant’?

Compliance

RoHS applies to anyone who sells or distributes covered electronic devices in the state of California. This includes manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, and retailers. 

As part of California’s e-waste recycling efforts, manufacturers must submit a report to the California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB) about their sales volume and use of restricted substances in CED products. Find more information about manufacturer reporting requirements on CIWMB’s website.

New Jersey

new jersey rohs - flag

New Jersey’s Electronic Waste Management Act was passed in 2006, and restricts the use of hazardous materials in covered electronic devices. The Act is the most similar in scope to the EU’s RoHS directive, and is thus one of the strictest RoHS laws in the U.S.

Restricted Substances

Under section C.13:1E-99.101, any new covered electronic devices sold in New Jersey must be compliant with EU RoHS Directive 2002/95/EC (RoHS 1).

Read more about EU RoHS compliance: What is ‘RoHS Compliant’?

Under EU RoHS 1, and therefore under New Jersey’s legislation, hazardous materials may only be used under specific limits. The allowable amount for each substance except cadmium is 1000 ppm. The allowable amount for cadmium is 100 ppm.

The materials include:

  • Cadmium (Cd)
  • Mercury (Hg)
  • Lead (Pb)
  • Hexavalent Chromium (Cr VI)
  • Polybrominated Biphenyls (PBB)
  • Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDE)

Restricted Products

New Jersey’s Act defines “covered electronic devices” as “a desktop or personal computer, computer monitor, portable computer, or television sold to a consumer.” Covered electronic devices do not include:

  1. an electronic device that is a part of a motor vehicle or any component part of a motor vehicle including replacement parts
  2. an electronic device that is functionally or physically a part of a larger piece of equipment designed and intended for use in an industrial, commercial, or medical setting, including diagnostic, monitoring, or control equipment
  3. an electronic device that is contained within a clothes washer, clothes dryer, refrigerator, refrigerator and freezer, microwave oven, conventional oven or range, dishwasher, room air conditioner, dehumidifier, or air purifier
  4. a telephone of any type unless it contains a video display area greater than four inches measured diagonally. 

Exemptions

A new covered electronic device that contains hazardous substances above the allowed thresholds may still be sold if the use of the heavy metal is necessary to comply with a different U.S. state or federal law, or to comply with consumer health and safety requirements created by the Underwriters Laboratories.

Compliance

Manufacturers of covered electronic devices sold in New Jersey must register with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Division of Solid and Hazardous Waste

Manufacturers must register annually, and pay an annual fee of $5000.

Illinois

illinois flag - united states rohs

The Illinois General Assembly passed the Electronic Products Recycling and Reuse Act in 2008. The Act’s main purpose is to manage the use of hazardous materials in electronics, particularly when those electronics are recycled. As of 2012, covered electronic devices are banned from being landfilled. The Act creates an RoHS-based reporting requirement for electronics manufacturers.

The Electronic Products Recycling and Reuse Act is more similar to the EU’s WEEE regulation, and is focused mainly on recycling of e-waste instead of restricting the use of hazardous materials in electronics manufacturing. Like other RoHS and e-waste recycling laws, Illinois’ legislation works to put the responsibility of e-waste on manufacturers, rather than government agencies or consumers.

Note: Some of the Act was amended or repealed in Public Act 100-362 and other subsequent legislation. For the most up to date information on manufacturer responsibilities in Illinois, visit the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency website.

Compliance

Manufacturers of electronic devices in Illinois must register with the Illinois EPA. In this registration, manufacturers must disclose whether any of their products (listed below) exceed the maximum concentration values for substances restricted by EU RoHS. 

Manufacturers must also submit a registration fee.

Restricted Substances

Substances that must be disclosed if used above 1000ppm include: 

  • Cadmium (Cd) [must be disclosed above 100ppm]
  • Mercury (Hg)
  • Lead (Pb)
  • Hexavalent Chromium (Cr VI)
  • Polybrominated Biphenyls (PBB)
  • Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDE)

Restricted Products

Illinois manufacturers must register with the Illinois EPA if any of the following products use restricted substances above the allowed thresholds: computers, computer monitors, printers, televisions, electronic keyboards, facsimile machines, videocassette recorders, portable digital music players, digital video disc players, video game consoles, electronic mice, scanners, digital converter boxes, cable receivers, satellite receivers, digital video disc recorders, or small-scale servers.

Indiana

indiana flag - united states rohs

Indiana’s e-waste legislation, Title 13, was passed in 2017. The regulation is primarily focused on proper disposal of e-waste, but includes an RoHS reporting requirement for manufacturers in Article 20.5 (Code 13-20.5-1-1).

Compliance

Manufacturers of video display devices sold to households must register with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. 

In addition to other information, the manufacturer’s registration must disclose if any video display devices exceed maximum concentration values (1000ppm or 100ppm for cadmium) established by the EU RoHS 1 directive for restricted substances.

A list of substances restricted by EU RoHS, and thus that must be disclosed, can be found below.

The manufacturer must also disclose if their products fall under the RoHS exemptions approved and published by the European Commission. Read more about exemptions: What is ‘RoHS Compliant’?

Visit the Indiana Department of Environmental Management Solid Waste and Recycling Data Reporting portal to register.

Minnesota

minnesota flag - united states rohs

Minnesota’s 2021 RoHS Statute 115A is focused mainly on electronic waste and reporting requirements for manufacturers. Manufacturers of video displays and other electronics must register with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Compliance

Section 1312 of Statute 115A includes the requirements for the electronic manufacturer registration program. Video display devices may not be sold in Minnesota unless:

  • The device is labeled with the manufacturer’s brand
  • The manufacturer has taken the proper registration steps.

By a specified date each year, manufacturers of video display devices must register with the Pollution Control Agency, disclosing whether their video display devices use a restricted substance in amounts higher than the maximum concentration established by EU RoHS.

A list of substances restricted by EU RoHS, and thus that must be disclosed, can be found below.

The manufacturer must also disclose if their products fall under the RoHS exemptions approved and published by the European Commission.

The registration must be renewed annually, and manufacturers must pay an annual registration fee outlined in section 115A.1314. The registration fee for manufacturers that sell 100 or more video display devices to households in the state during the previous calendar year is $2,500, plus a variable recycling fee. For manufacturers that sell fewer than 100 devices annually, the fee varies.

For more information about electronic manufacturer reporting requirements, visit the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency website.

New York

Flag of New York - united states rohs

New York state’s Electronic Recycling and Reuse Act, signed into law in May 2010, creates manufacturer requirements for reporting of hazardous substances in electronic products sold in New York. The Act also mandates the creation of e-waste programs.

Compliance

Manufacturers of covered electronic equipment (CEE) sold in New York state must register with the Department of Environmental Conservation. The registration must include disclosure of any CEE that exceeds maximum concentration values established by the EU RoHS directive.

Manufacturers of CEE are defined as anyone who fits a single one of the following:

  • assembles CEE for sale in New York
  • manufactures CEE under its own brand name or under any other brand name for sale in the state
  • sells, under its own brand name, CEE sold in the state
  • owns a brand name that it licenses to another person for use on CEE sold in the state
  • imports CEE for sale in the state
  • manufactures CEE for sale in the state without affixing a brand name.

Any manufacturer that produces less than 1000 units of CEE per year, or who sells CEE primarily made of rebuilt or reused components, is not considered a manufacturer under this Act. They must still notify the Department of Environmental Conservation.

For more information on manufacturer requirements in New York, visit the Department of Environmental Conservation website.

Restricted Substances

Manufacturers must report CEE that contains substances restricted by EU RoHS 1 in amounts larger than 1000ppm (cadmium’s limit is 100ppm). A list of substances restricted by EU RoHS, and thus that must be disclosed, can be found below.

Restricted Products

Covered electronic equipment includes:

  • Cathode ray tubes
  • Computers
  • Computer peripherals (eg. electronic keyboards)
  • Small electronic equipment (eg. DVD players)
  • Small-scale servers designed in a desktop or similar form factor and capable of supporting only a single processor
  • Televisions with screens greater than four inches diagonally

Rhode Island

rhode island flag - rohs

Rhode Island passed its Electronic Waste Prevention, Reuse and Recycling Act in 2008. One of the main stated purposes of the Act is to “encourage the design of covered electronic products that are less toxic, more durable and more recyclable.” As part of this goal, the Act requires manufacturers of covered electronic devices to register with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.

Compliance

Manufacturers who decide to create their own e-waste recycling program, rather than joining the state program, must issue a statement that discloses whether their video display devices sold in Rhode Island use EU RoHS restricted substances in amounts greater than 1000ppm (or 100ppm for cadmium).

A list of substances restricted by EU RoHS, and thus that must be disclosed, can be found below.

Manufacturers must also disclose if their products are exempt from EU RoHS regulation.

Manufacturers must register every two years by October 15, and must pay a registration fee of $5000.

More information is available on the Department of Environmental Management website. Manufacturers can register at the eCycle Registration website.

Wisconsin

wisconsin flag - united states rohs

Wisconsin’s Statute on Solid Waste Reduction, Recovery and Recycling includes a reporting requirement for manufacturers selling covered electronic devices. In Subchapter 17, Electronic Waste Recycling, manufacturer registration requirements are described, which went into effect in 2010.

Compliance

Manufacturers of covered electronic devices sold to households or K-12 public schools in Wisconsin must register with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources no later than the first day of the third month each program year.

The registration should disclose whether or not the manufacturer’s covered electronic devices comply with the most recent EU RoHS directive, currently RoHS 3.

New manufacturers must register no more than ten days after they begin selling their covered electronic devices.

For more information on manufacturer registration requirements, visit the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources E-cycle website.

Restricted Substances

Under the most recent EU RoHS directive, the following substances are restricted in amounts above 1000ppm. In Wisconsin, while covered electronic devices may contain more than the allowed amount of these substances, it must be disclosed in the manufacturer registration. 

  • Cadmium (Cd) [The allowable amount for cadmium is 100 ppm.]
  • Mercury (Hg)
  • Lead (Pb)
  • Hexavalent Chromium (Cr VI)
  • Polybrominated Biphenyls (PBB)
  • Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDE)
  • Bis(2-Ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP)
  • Benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP)
  • Dibutyl phthalate (DBP)
  • Diisobutyl phthalate (DIBP)

Restricted Products

Wisconsin’s legislation defines “covered electronic devices” as a consumer computer, consumer printer, or consumer video display device (televisions, computer monitors or e-readers with a screen that is at least 7 inches in its longest diagonal measurement).

The Department of Natural Resources’s PUB-WA-1474 2016 provides guidance for manufacturers on how the legislation defines covered electronic devices.

Why is RoHS Important?

RoHS’s importance can be summarized into three main areas of impact: the market, the environment, and consumer health. While U.S. RoHS regulations create increased costs for sellers and buyers of electronics, the laws also protect the natural environment and human health.

1) The Market

RoHS raises costs for sellers and buyers of electronic products alike. 

Manufacturers must use less hazardous and often more expensive methods to produce RoHS-compliant products. Many U.S. RoHS regulations require manufacturers to pay a registration fee. Additionally, hiring a third-party laboratory to test RoHS compliance may be costly. 

Buyers also experience increased prices of electronics in their day to day lives as a result of U.S. RoHS regulation.

Of course, these increased prices come hand in hand with safer, more environmentally friendly devices.

2) The Environment

The restricted materials regulated by U.S. RoHS laws act as environmental pollutants that often end up in landfills. By limiting the amount of these hazardous substances that may be used, RoHS protects the environment and increases the amount of electronics that can be recycled safely.

All of the RoHS regulations in the U.S. work in tandem (or are part of) an e-waste recycling law. E-waste legislation not only protects the environment from the harmful effects of degrading electronics in landfills, but also pushes innovation in the creation of electronic products made from recycled materials.

3) Consumer Health

RoHS works to protect consumers of electronic devices and broader communities from the harmful health effects of hazardous materials. RoHS aims to minimize health impacts caused by hazardous materials in electronics in every stage of a product’s lifecycle, from production to use to disposal.

Several materials restricted by RoHS create toxic waste and occupational hazards that negatively impact human health. Restricted substances not only harm workers in production and recycling phases, but also can create health concerns for users of end products.

By restricting or requiring disclosure of hazardous materials, RoHS regulations in the U.S. help protect consumer health.

Global RoHS Regulation

Rules similar to RoHS have spread to many other regions, including India, South Korea, the UAE, Vietnam, Japan, and China. It is important for electronic companies to remain aware of shifting hazardous substance legislation in markets around the world.

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