Public health and environmental benefits of adopting lead-free solders
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After more than 7,000 years of wide-spread use, lead is figuratively sinking in contemporary industrial ecology and global societal commerce. But, despite the long research history of documenting the detrimental impacts of lead use, and of legislative initiatives to phase lead out of various products and processes, the United States currently has no federal mandate comparable to the European Union’s “restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment” banning the sale of new electrical and electronic equipment containing specified levels of six major toxic materials, including lead. Without a strong environmental agenda leaning toward preventive strategies, concerns about demonstrated public health effects often prove to be strong motivators of U.S. materials use policy. This article assesses various ways in which universal adoption of lead-free solders, coupled with additional material restrictions, may have tangible benefits for public health and the environment, and how these benefits may help secure true innovation in material selection and product design for the environment.
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