The Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive, commonly referred to as RoHS, was adopted in February 2003 by the European Union. The RoHS directive took effect in July 2006, and is required to be enforced and become law in each European member state.

RoHS is the directive on the restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment. RoHS is often referred to as the lead-free directive, but it restricts the use of the following six substances:

  1. Lead (Pb)
  2. Mercury (Hg)
  3. Cadmium (Cd)
  4. Hexavalent chromium (Cr6+)
  5. Polybrominated biphenyls (PBB)
  6. Polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE)

PBB and PBDE are flame retardants used in several plastics.

RoHS is closely linked with the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE) established in the EU which sets collection, recycling and recovery targets for electrical goods and is part of a legislative initiative to solve the problem of huge amounts of toxic e-waste.

The RoHS directive applies to equipment as defined by a section of the WEEE directive. The following numeric categories apply:

  1. Large and small household appliances.
  2. IT equipment.
  3. Telecommunications equipment (although infrastructure equipment is exempt in some countries)
  4. Consumer equipment.
  5. Lighting equipment—including light bulbs.
  6. Electronic and electrical tools.
  7. Toys, leisure, and sports equipment.
  8. Medical devices (currently exempt)
  9. Monitoring and control instruments (currently exempt)
  10. Automatic dispensers.
  11. Semiconductor devices

It does not apply to fixed industrial plant and tools. Compliance is the responsibility of the company that puts the product on the market, as defined in the Directive; components and sub-assemblies are not responsible for product compliance. RoHS applies to these products in the EU whether made within the EU or imported.​ 

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