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Focus: Optatec


Action taken against REACH and RoHS regulations at Optatec


A draft proposal to exclude lead and cadmium used in optical glass and filters from REACH and RoHS legislation has been reviewed at a meeting on 21 May at the Optatec trade fair. Jessica Rowbury reports from the show


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t the opening press conference for Optatec, which took place from 20 to 22 May in Frankfurt, Dr Wenko Sueptitz, head of the photonics division of the Spectaris Industry Association, spoke about two EU regulations − REACH and RoHS − that restrict the use of heavy metals in optical components. Spectaris has now completed a draft of a request to exclude lead and cadmium used in optical glass and filters from the legislation. This request was reviewed during the show. REACH regulates on the registration,


evaluation, authorisation, and restriction of chemicals, in order to avoid the public coming in contact with hazardous substances, while RoHS restricts or prohibits the use of mercury, lead, cadmium, and other hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment. The issue is that some of these banned substances are used in optical products – for instance, in optical glasses that contain lead, and filter glasses which may contain cadmium or lead. These raw materials are necessary in order to provide glass with special characteristics, without which numerous applications such as in the fields of endoscopy, fluorescence microscopy and camera technology, would not be possible. And, even though the materials are used in


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‘ The issue is that some of these banned substances are used in optical products’


trace amounts and are harmless once bound into glass, optical products are still threatened by the restrictions. ‘At the moment, the German as well as the international photonics sector is grappling in particular with the RoHS directive and the EU’s REACH regulation,’ said Wenko at the press conference. Spectaris, the German high-tech


industry association, represents 100 optics and photonics companies and is acting as a spearhead to address the legalisation. An exemption that applies to ‘lead and cadmium in optical glasses and filters’, for which


Spectaris campaigned vehemently for, is due to expire in July 2016 − and a renewal must be submitted 18 months prior to this date. After months of coordination between its member companies, Spectaris has prepared the draft of a request for a five-year extension on the deadline. ‘We have a pre-final draft of the exemption


request, with many contributions from about 30 to 40 companies in Germany,’ Wenko told Electro Optics.


It is also anticipated that the renewal request will be championed by other European and non- European industry associations. ‘We are in talks with the European electronics companies, and other kinds of associations in Europe, and also companies from Japan and the US,’ said Wenko. ‘What we suggest to the European partners is that they are free to join us after we have discussed with them if they require additions, or if they have different ideas to what we should actually ask for − they are wondering whether we should have one unified exemption request.’ Representatives from Schott and Zeiss were both at the meeting at Optatec, both of which have contributed a lot to the work. Speaking to Electro Optics, Dr Peter Hartmann of Schott Advanced Optics commented about the wider implications of the REACH and RoHS legislation:


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