Environmental Modeling & Assessment

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 107-118

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Transition to Lead-Free Products in the US Electronics Industry: A Model of Environmental, Technical, and Economic Preferences

  • Xiaoying ZhouAffiliated withDepartment of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, University of California
  • , Hilary NixonAffiliated withDepartment of Urban and Regional Planning, San Jose State University
  • , Oladele A. OgunseitanAffiliated withProgram in Public Health and School of Social Ecology, University of California
  • , Andrew A. ShapiroAffiliated withDepartment of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, University of California
  • , Julie M. SchoenungAffiliated withDepartment of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, University of California Email author 


The European Union’s Restriction on the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances (Directive 2002/95/EC) targeted at electronic products took effect in 2006. In contrast, the USA has no comparable national policy on these products. To understand corporate responses to policy differences across jurisdictions, we conducted a structured-questionnaire survey of individuals in 109 companies that are representative of the US electronics industry. The results reveal that 70% of these companies have already adopted lead-free solder for electronics with 49% of the total preferring the SnAgCu formulation, despite uncertainties associated with environmental impacts of this alternative alloy. We use a modified life cycle impact assessment method based on endpoint modeling approach to derive weighting factors that represent the respondents’ value system for tradeoffs among environmental impacts. We use a modified fuzzy Technique for Order Preference by Similarity to Ideal Solution approach to evaluate technical criteria dominance in declared preferences. A statistical model of corporate behavior is also presented. The results provide the first systematic framework that accounts for environmental impact, technological challenge, and business strategy concurrently toward formulating a comprehensive national policy for materials selection in electronic products.


Decision making Environmental management E-waste Integrated assessment Lead-free solder Materials selection