The issue of lead in electronics has gone through more than 12 years of deliberation and debate by legislative bodies, manufacturers, and individuals around the world. Various ideas have been exhibited, particularly in U.S., and individual opinions expressed by both supporters and oppositions have been eloquent.

On the global landscape, the tangible progress in technology and legislation differs in the three major continents—North America, the European Union, and Asia. Although a uniform consensus is still to be worked out, the technology has advanced, the business climate has changed, and, overall, the marketplace is striding into a highly environmentally-conscious playing field.

Various organizations have made dedicated effort to inform the industry about this pivotal issue. For instance, the Swedish Institute of Production Engineering Research (IVF) has developed the “Electronics Design-for-Environment Webguide,” which disseminates updated information to the industry regarding the development of legislation and technology.

The International Tin Research Institute (ITRI) launched the Lead-Free Soldering Technology Centre, and IPC initiated the Lead Free Forum on the Internet. Professional organizations such as Surface Mount Technology Association (SMTA) and International Microelectronics and Packaging Society (IMAPS) have organized symposia dedicated to disseminating knowledge and information.

Global legislations in the three regions are described separately, below. To producers and manufacturers, waste reduction, recovery, and recycling should be and inevitably will be treated as a long-term goal supported by an ongoing effort.

A product should be designed for minimal environmental impact and with the full life cycle in mind. Life-cycle assessment includes all the energy and resource inputs to a product, the associated wastes, and the resulting health and ecological burdens. Overall the goal is to reduce environmental impacts from cradle to grave.

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