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New Certified Reference Materials Released to Analyse Toxic Trace Elements in Plastics Used in Electrical and Electronic Equipment

The European Commission has recently reported that the Joint Research Centre (JRC) has released two new certified reference materials (CRMs) that will be used to test for toxic trace elements in plastics which are used in electrical and electronic equipment (EEE).

Hong Kong traders not familiar with the JRC may like to know that it is the Commission’s science and knowledge service. The JRC supports the Commission to implement EU policies by providing independent evidence and technical support.

Hong Kong manufacturers of plastic materials intended for use in EEE, as well as of EEE containing plastic elements, may be aware that CRMs are used to determine whether a product or a raw material complies with EU legislation. The CRMs are used as a reliable benchmark measurement for analytical laboratories to deliver accurate and comparable results.

In order to protect both the environment and human health from excessive heavy metal loads, the EU has passed various legislation to regulate and limit the use of certain elements in particular products.

The two new CRMs will support the implementation of Directive 2011/65/EU (more commonly known as “RoHS 2”) which restricts the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment. Furthermore, it will support the implementation of Directive 94/62/EC on packaging material and Directive 2000/53/EC on end-of-life vehicles by testing for toxic elements to ensure that the substances do not exceed the appropriate limits.

The JRC's selection of reference materials are tailored to meet the needs of European policy, particularly in emerging areas such as nanotechnology, biotechnology and personalised medicine.

In 2001, the Commission funded a project for the production of two CRMs to trace for toxic elements in plastics. Those CRMs were exhausted in 2006 and replaced in 2007. However, the replacements are now close to exhaustion due to their high demand. The two new CRMs will now replace the previous CRMs ERM-EC680k and ERM-EC681k.

The two new CRMs, named ERM-EC680m and ERM-EC681m, are upgraded versions of the previous CRMs, particularly as they are able to identify six more elements than their predecessor. The old CRMs were only able to identify lead, cadmium, mercury and chromium. The two news CRMs can also certify values of arsenic, bromine, sulphur, antimony, tin and zinc.

ERM-EC680m and ERM-EC681m are low-density polyethylene (“LDPE”) materials certified for the mass fraction of elements. The new CRMs are similar to their predecessors; however, different pigments were used to allow for wet-chemistry methods and according to commercial availability.

The introduction of the two further CRMs will allow laboratories world-wide to continue to support the implementation of the above-mentioned Directives. Hong Kong manufacturers of plastic destined for use in EEE should ensure that the volume of toxic elements in plastic are calculated as part of quality control to ensure that the EEE products are allowed on the EU market.

By way of example, some EEE covered by RoHS 2 are large and small household appliances; IT and telecommunications equipment; lighting equipment; electrical and electronic tools; toys, leisure and sports equipment; and medical devices.

It is worth noting that in accordance with Article 23 of RoHS 2, penalties for infringements of the national provisions adopted pursuant to this Directive will be as laid down in each Member State’s national laws. The penalties provided for must be effective, proportionate and dissuasive. In some Member States, the penalty may include criminal sanctions.

Details regarding the reference materials can be found via the following links:
ERM-EC680m POLYETHYLENE (low level)
ERM-EC681m POLYETHYLENE (high level)

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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