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Working Group 3 Printed Circuit Boards. Introduction by: J. Lohse, Ökopol. Conference on Substitution Hamburg, 13-14 June 2002. Some Characteristics of Printed Circuit Boards:. Integral part of all electronic devices (IT, consumer goods, automotive etc.).

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Working Group 3

Printed Circuit Boards

Introduction by: J. Lohse, Ökopol

Conference on Substitution Hamburg, 13-14 June 2002


Some Characteristics of Printed Circuit Boards:

  • Integral part of all electronic devices (IT, consumer goods, automotive etc.).

  • High-volume market, significant growth rates.

  • The dominating material is FR4 (glass-fibre reinforced epoxide).

  • UL-94 norm commonly applied defines classes V0, V1 related to resistance to flammability.

  • Substances most commonly applied to achieve flame resistance are brominated organic chemicals.


  • Concerns about brominated flame retardants (BFR)

  • Toxic and suspected CMR properties of many BFR substances

  • Low biodegradability and/or formation of toxic metabolites

  • Diffuse losses from products in use

  • Ubiquitous occurrence in urban environment and remote areas

  • Found in human blood (exposed workers)

  • Found in human breast-milk (general population)

  • PXDD/F formation upon accidental fire

  • PXDD/F formation upon thermal stress during recycling


  • Initiatives at the political level

  • Voluntary phase-out of some BFR by German chemical industry (after their behaviour as dioxin precursors was discovered)

  • Draft ROHS Directive requires substitution of PBB / PBDE

  • EU Risk Assessment on TBBA (ongoing)

  • Draft WEEE Directive requires dismantling of BFR-components

  • Legislative initiatives (e.g. in Germany and Denmark)

  • Eco-labelling criteria (EU flower, national & private labels) restrict the use of some or even all BFR.

  • Pressure from environmental NGOs.


  • Initiatives at enterprise level (individual companies)

  • Circuit board manufacturer: disposal problem for production waste initiated search for substitutes

  • E&E manufacturer: early internal ban of PBB and PBDE - working towards total BFR phase-out to fulfill eco-label criteria

  • Car manufacturer: early internal ban of PBB and PBDE - working towards halogen-free materials in general where possible

  • Base-material supplier: offers halogen-free FR4 material and seeks first mover advantage

  • Market pressure from several Asian manufacturers

  • [parallel efforts in Asia and US to phase out Pb solder]


  • Substitution strategies

  • Use of TBBA instead of PBB / PBDE

  • polymerized TBBA (reduces some but does not avoid all risks)

  • Phosphorus-based FR (shielding effect by solid-base reaction)

  • Mineral-based FR (ATH and similar - dilution & cooling effect)

  • Change of base material (e.g. foams, polysiloxane etc.)

  • Geometric separation of high and low voltage components

  • Reduce operating voltage.

Substance --> material --> product level


Use of P-based FR instead of TBBA - arguments and questions:

  • Economics

  • Additional cost of material ?!

  • Investments in process necessary ?

  • Dependance on single supplier ? !

  • Technical functionality

  • Functional equivalence of substitute ? (safety standards, market requirements)

  • Communication / awareness

  • Necessity to involve all actors in the chain !

  • Ecotox-profile as strong driver at company level ??

  • Risk Assessment

  • Sufficient knowledge about ecotox-profile of substitutes ?

  • Regulative frame

  • Upcoming legislation !

  • Existing standards in favour of traditional solutions ?!

  • Timing of innovation depends on parallel developments (e.g. Pb-free) !


Questions to the Working Group:

 Is it a case for substitution - YES or NO ?

 If YES: what is needed to promote substitution ?

(present barriers, supportive actions, legal or market

instruments etc.)

 If controversial: what would be the right procedure to decide ?

(criteria; stakeholders to be involved; ...)

 [if all say NO: why then are BFR high on the political agenda ?]


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