European Commission Intends to Allow Cadmium to Enter European Market
Cadmium, a toxic substance and carcinogen regulated by the Directive on Restriction of certain Hazardous Substances in electrical and electronic equipment (RoHS) will be allowed in displays of televisions and other electronic and electrical equipment for the European market should draft European Commission regulation pass. The issue will be discussed at an Environment Committee meeting of the European Parliament on 7 May. Parliament has a veto right.
Cadmium is one of six highly toxic substances banned from use in Europe in electrical and electronic equipment by the twelve-year-old RoHS Directive which was designed to protect human health and the environment and to facilitate recycling. The RoHS Directive recognises the substance as the most hazardous toxic heavy metal, giving it a maximum allowed level 10 times lower than mercury and lead.
At the heart of the debate is whether new LCD televisions using cadmium-based quantum dot technology should be allowed into the market. This year, following significant lobbying efforts from manufacturers of cadmium-based quantum dots, a delegated act proposed by the European Commission plans to exempt cadmium in quantum dots for use in displays from the restrictions of the RoHS Directive in Europe until June 2018.
The exemption is based on an outdated evaluation that cadmium-free quantum dot technology would not be technically available. However, cadmium-free quantum dots are not only technically available as such, but TVs based on this technology are available on the EU market. They do not only provide a far safer option, but they also match or exceed the energy-saving potential of cadmium-containing quantum dots.
Consumer demand for innovative electronics products can readily be met by existing materials that do not contain cadmium.
Michael Edelman, CEO of Manchester, UK-based Nanoco Group plc, a world leader in the development and manufacture of cadmium-free quantum dots and other nanomaterials, said:
” There is no need for cadmium in quantum dots – innovative TVs can be and are being produced with cadmium-free quantum dots.
“Extending the period of exemption of cadmium in quantum dots for use in displays from substitution requirements of EU hazardous substances regulation would effectively allow EU citizens to be exposed to a toxic substance despite the availability of safer alternatives. This clearly violates the provisions of the applicable law.
“The move would represent a significant step backwards in European regulation of hazardous substances and would open the door to products containing cadmium, despite the availability of substitutes.
“Moreover, this move appears to be a signal that the EU is not supporting sustainable innovation, but is advocating for the continued development of technologies using highly hazardous materials when safe substitutes are already proven to be available.
“A number of multinational and EU based organisations and enterprises have invested considerable sums – Nanoco included – to develop innovative new heavy metal free products based on a stable legislative environment. To make this change to the law completely undermines the stable backdrop that organisations need in order to make substantial long term investments in new technologies.
“We call on the European Parliament to uphold the letter and the spirit of the law and to object to the exemption that the Commission intends to adopt. The current exemption for the use of cadmium in quantum dots needs to be revoked, not extended.”
Cadmium is a highly toxic and carcinogenic by-product of zinc and copper production. Cadmium accumulates in the body so that even low-level exposure results in a build-up over time to dangerous levels. It is hazardous in the general environment as well as direct exposure.
Recycling of products containing cadmium cannot be depended on for waste electrical equipment. European Commission Restriction of Hazardous Substances regulation (Point 7) notes that significant amounts of waste electrical and electronic equipment will end up in normal disposal and that, even if collected correctly, the controlled substances will still be hazardous to health and the environment.
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