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EC to consider extending Pb/Cd exemption for optical glasses

12 Nov 2014

SPECTARIS argues European photonics industry relies on special glasses; consultations set for early 2015.

Technology industry association SPECTARIS has applied to the European Commission for an extension of the exemptions for the use of lead in glasses and cadmium in optical filters. Current exemptions for these metals could expire in July 2016. Signed by 18 international industry associations from Europe, Japan and the USA, the applications have been met with widespread support.

SPECTARIS is the German industry association for the high-tech medium-sized business sector and representative body in the areas of medical technology, optical technologies and analytical, biological, laboratory, and ophthalmic devices. Its membership comes from different industry sectors, which together employ 235,000 people.

The association argues that the exemptions are necessary because glass additives lead and cadmium are vital for the efficiency of technical optics. Spectaris states, "Without these elements, optical systems would lose transparency, brilliance of colour and spectral selectivity – properties that are crucial for the usefulness of devices in applications such as endoscopy, fluorescence microscopy or camera technology."

However, the EU's RoHS (Restriction of the use of certain Hazardous Substances) directive (2011/65/EU) requires that materials such as lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyl (PBB) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE) be replaced with other substances in electrical and electronic equipment. But there are exemption permits for selected product segments.

The exemption for optical materials, which SPECTARIS obtained back in 2009, is due to run out in July 2016. The organisation says that an extension the status quo would provide planning security in the development and use of optical systems in Europe for another five years.

The European Commission is accepting applications until 21 January 2015. SPECTARIS’s exemption applications will be evaluated by the Institute for Applied Ecology in Freiburg, Germany, on behalf of the European Commission. The consultations are expected to take place at the beginning of 2015.

About the Author

Matthew Peach is a contributing editor to optics.org.

Diffraction InternationalFISBASACHER LASERTECHNIK GMBHSchaefter und Kirchhoff GmbHSynopsys, Optical Solutions GroupMOELLER-WEDEL OPTICAL GmbHScitec Instruments Ltd
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