EU regulations threaten the availability of raw materials for the optical industry

Just published: strong plea to assume responsibility and exercise discretion in assessing potentially hazardous substances

The date for the ban on “substance of very high concern (SVHC)” from the EU regulation REACH is approaching. For instance, the deadline on the use of arsenic oxide by European manufacturing companies has now been set: May 21st, 2015. Furthermore, the RoHS regulation also controls the use of certain hazardous substances like lead and mercury in electric and electronic devices.

Reason enough for Dr. Peter Hartmann, Director of Market and Customer Relations at SCHOTT Advanced Optics and Fellow of the SPIE (International Society for Optics and Photonics), to cite how important these raw materials are for the sciences, industry and society. In the tension field of photonics as a key technology on the one hand and dealing with hazardous substances in a responsible manner on the other hand, he noted that optical materials for use in high-end systems are strongly dependent on a wide range of substances in order to be able to achieve the desired properties. Whether it is camera lenses, microscopes or endoscopes, intensive research has shown that there is no substitute for the additives needed without negatively affecting transmission, contrast etc..

Furthermore, a new chemical substance is produced during the melting process that exhibits completely different properties than the original materials. The vast majority of optical glasses can therefore be classified as harmless. Dr. Hartmann analyzes the conflict between the photonics industry and the EU and then comes up with recommendations on how this alarming situation can be resolved from the industry’s vantage point.

The complete article is available here: http://spie.org/x106780.xml