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The F40 Regulatory Database
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 July 2006 Feature
David L. Edenburn is the chairman of Subcommittee F40.03 on Monitoring of Legislation and Regulation. He is the principal of Edenburn Consulting International LLC, a company specializing in advising clients on standards and standardization issues, especially in the area of flame retardants and plastics. He participates in committees of ASTM, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the International Electrotechnical Commission, the National Fire Protection Association and others.
Committee F40 to Meet in Shanghai

The fall 2006 meeting of Committee F40 on Declarable Substances in Materials will occur Oct. 10-12 in Shanghai, China. The meeting will be hosted by the Thermo Electron Corporation. For more information, contact Brynn Iwanowski, ASTM International (phone: +1 610/832-9640).

The F40 Regulatory Database

Subcommittee Organizes Information about Declarable Substance Regulations

For several years, various government bodies around the world have proposed and even passed a variety of regulations dealing with declarable substances. The most prominent is the European Union Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) regulation and its companion document, Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment (RoHS). Besides these EU Directives, there are hundreds of other regulations, from the United Nations all the way down to local city ordinances. In this global economy it is very difficult for product manufacturers to navigate this maze of regulations, especially because a manufacturer may not know what country its product may end up in. This situation is exacerbated for small component manufacturers who make items for a variety of end-use products. To assist industry, ASTM has created a new committee, F40 on Declarable Substances in Materials. Within that broader scope, Subcommittee F40.03 on Monitoring of Legislation and Regulation is creating a database of declarable substance regulations.

Types of Documents

The database as currently envisioned will contain government regulations and bills. By definition, these are public documents and therefore available to all. F40.03 is considering links from standards or test methods referenced by the regulations to the responsible standards developing organization that publishes the standard, which will allow users to obtain the necessary documents. Government regulations will include those that have been voted on and approved (passed) as well as bills that are currently going through the process (bills). In the case of bills, it is not possible to know when, or even if, these documents will become law, but a “heads up” on potential regulations should be appreciated. Eventually the database will contain regulations at all levels of government in all countries or regions of interest. However, to make the task manageable, we will be starting with the major regulations such as WEEE and RoHS. The subcommittee has created five sections that are responsible for different geographic areas — Europe, North America, China, Japan, Korea. The chairs of these sections will be responsible for collecting documents from these areas to be included in the database.

Organization

The database will be organized geographically, but, because many regulations cross national or regional boundaries, there will be other levels of organization. The database will be initially divided into four main segments: geographic, industry, material, declarable substance. The geographic portions will be further subdivided as listed in Table 1.

These geographic sections should be considered the “master” database. Regulations must be enacted and enforced by governments, which by definition are geographical. Industries are not geographical, they cross all boundaries. In addition to regulations or laws, there are many cases of an industry self-policing. This is particularly true in the United States, which has relatively few laws but many standard practices. For example, there is no law that requires electrical appliances to have a UL or other type of certification, but they invariably do. Organization of the industry, material and declarable substance sections of the database are shown in Table 2.

Material regulations cover the basic materials. In most cases a regulation will reference a particular consumer product. Sometimes however, there are regulations that cover a material, for instance, arsenic in treated lumber. The list of declarable substances in Table 2 are those currently listed by the EU RoHS document, but others may be added, for example, the United Nations Persistent Organic Pollutants list.1 It is said that nearly every substance is on somebody’s list somewhere and this is almost true. When looking at substance regulations, care should be taken to determine the level or severity of the regulation. There are bans where a material is not allowed at all, there are restrictions where a material may not be present above a specified limit, and there are reporting regulations which state that if a substance is present, it must be reported to the user through a label or some other document. In some cases, a restriction or reporting regulation is misunderstood by the public to mean that something has been banned. In fact, very few substances have actually been banned and even then, exceptions are sometimes allowed, for example, DDT is still allowed.

It is important to monitor these regulations continually because new science is constantly either adding new substances to the list or, in rare occasions, removing materials that have been re-examined and judged to be safe.

Navigation

To navigate through the database the user will first have to decide if he or she wants the regulations for a particular industry segment or material and follow the directory tree to the relevant document. Or, if a product is determined to have a particular substance in it, and the producer wants to know if that substance has been regulated, then he or she would go directly to the “Declarable Substance” list. Of course there will be many duplicate entries where a regulation covers more than one industry or where a substance can be used in different materials. As stated above, regulations are, by definition, geographic. Therefore, all documents will be assigned a geographic jurisdiction first and then be placed in other sections where the subcommittee feels it to be most relevant. If users cannot find the document they are looking for in the industry or material section, they should go to the geographic section where the document originated. The subcommittee has tried to make the database as flexible as possible, but suggestions to make it easier to use are always welcome.

Status

The initial database has been created, and all that remains is to incorporate it into ASTM’s Web site and populate it. The intention is to have this on the public portion of the Web site, making it available to anyone, not just ASTM members. Database maintenance will be the responsibility of ASTM and Subcommittee F40.03. Maintenance involves adding new information as it becomes available. Currently there are thousands of documents that could be placed in the database and only a dozen or so actually are. As with any database, in time it will grow, becoming more useful and comprehensive as it does. Please be patient and check on it periodically to monitor the new entries. Some technical and software issues remain but it is hoped that the database will be available soon.

The regulation of materials and products for the protection of the environment or human health is a growing trend that will continue. Unfortunately, at this time there is little coordination between various authorities, so the true benefit to society often gets lost in the confusion. F40 hopes that by presenting the existing regulations in an organized fashion, both the manufacturers of goods and the regulators of these products can work together to provide relevant and consistent regulations that protect society. //

Reference

1 Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants

 
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