A moment of Wow

IPC President Denny McGuirk’s November editorial from IPC Review:

A recent IPC news headline read “IPC Efforts to Base RoHS Revision on Scientific Principles May Be Paying Off.” On first read, I thought OK, that’s nice. Then I came back to it and thought, Wow.

IPC is a very tiny player in the world of nongovernmental organizations and trade groups. To put us in perspective, our entire budget equals about five percent of Greenpeace’s annual worldwide donations. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, one of America’s largest lobbying groups, spends about ten times IPC’s annual revenue on lobbying alone. With limited resources, IPC has to be selective about our issues and where we can have the biggest impact.

In 2008, the European Union retained the Öko-Institut to study the inclusion of additional substances for the RoHS Directive. The institute’s final report suggested banning a number of substances, including TBBPA, a flame retardant used to protect more than 80 percent of circuit boards, even though a European Union Risk Assessment found it to be safe. IPC became extremely concerned about fairness, methodology and how decisions would be made in the future.

In late 2008, IPC released a white paper and began a lobbying campaign urging that all future RoHS revisions be based on science. Earlier this year, RoHS rapporteur MEP Jill Evans proposed an amendment to list 37 substances for restriction (including TBBPA), not based on scientific evidence, but for political reasons. Industry representatives and IPC staff continued to lead with a clear message of basing all decisions on science. Our efforts were rewarded when MEP Evans withdrew her amendment and agreed to compromise by listing the substances for priority assessment. The industry had another success when the Belgian presidency (head of the rotating EU presidency and chair of the EU Council) recently proposed abandoning inclusion of the list of politically generated priority substances. Support for the list is rapidly falling away from other countries as well.

That’s a moment that should really make you say Wow. IPC — a really small player on the worldwide political stage — has been the leading organization calling for reliance on scientifically based decisions. And now people are starting to listen. This step has been a huge success for us and for our industry.

Of course, the battle is not yet over. There are more meetings taking place this fall and IPC must continue to press the issue. If you’re in Europe, have a European branch, or have customers or suppliers in Europe, we urge you to participate in this critical lobbying activity. Contact your ministry of environment or trade/commerce and get your voice heard. Then take a deep breath and appreciate what we can accomplish together.

For more assistance, please contact our Washington D.C. office at +1 703-522-0225 or e-mail Fern Abrams, IPC director of government relations and environmental policy.

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