PCB manufacturers have been making the printed circuit board assemblies since the mid 1950s, creating the devices that would be the internal workings of the electronic devices that are taken advantage of today. Printed circuit boards are sometimes simple or complex, depending on the job they are intended to do. They seem to be harmless at first glance, and for the most part they are. However, PCB manufacturersused to use hazardous materials in the process of soldering the printed circuit boards (PCB) such as lead, mercury, cadmium, and other materials known to be hazardous. When electronic devices are obsolete, they are usually discarded. When these devices are thrown out because they have ceased to be useful, the materials used to create the PCBs within these devices leak the hazardous substances they are created with into the environment, leading people to exposure of lead, mercury and cadmium. These materials would create problems for the environment and nothing could seem to change this.
That was before the European Union (EU) stepped in to pass a directive called RoHs (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) in February of 2003. The directive was passed which prohibited PCB manufacturers in the member states from using lead and other hazardous materials in the soldering of PCBs.
In California, the Electronic Waste Recycling Act (EWRA) was passed, prohibiting the sale of all electronic devices that were not in accordance with the EU’s RoHs directive, meaning that other parts of the world were also seeing the problem of lead contamination in the environment, even though California is not under the control of the EU. The EWRA Act passed in 2003, stating all sales of these electronic devices must cease by Jan 1st, 2007. PCB Manufacturers in California abide now by the RoHs directive and no longer manufacture PCBs containing lead, mercury or cadmium. Although these directives are fairly recent, it is a major step in creating a cleaner environment as more and more electronic devices are discarded every day. Although the people cannot be stopped from throwing away these devices, at least the substances that make up these devices can now be controlled. More directives may pass in the future regarding these issues, as long as world leaders strive to create positive change.