Impending regulation in Europe may de-toxify electronics worldwide

As the clock ticks down toward a tough new environmental regulation in Europe, electronics manufacturers worldwide are busily reworking their supply chains to create less-toxic gadgets. In July 2006, the Reduction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) rule will go into effect across all 25 member nations of the European Union, severely limiting the import of six key toxic substances regularly used in electronics, including lead and cadmium. Thanks to the size of the European market, RoHS will set a new de facto global standard for limiting toxics in high-tech products, and similar regulations are in the works in Japan and China. Despite the notable lack of such standards at the national level in the U.S., a few states are looking into limiting use of some toxics, like lead. Regardless, American electronics manufacturers will need to comply with RoHS if they want to keep exporting their wares to Europe — a market worth $41 billion to U.S. manufacturers last year.