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Is neon's light set to be extinguished?

The Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances (RoHS) law states that the use of mercury over a certain level is banned, which affects the neon signage sector of the industry. Now, the exemption which allowed the use of mercury in neon signage is coming to an end, with the fate of neon up in the air.

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Traditional neon signage uses a mixture of argon and mercury to create the product, and the industry is waiting on news of its future

Up until the end of 2018, the British Sign and Graphics Association (BSGA) and the European Sign Federation (ESF) were able to gain an exemption, which allowed the use of mercury together with argon to create neon signage. The law says that ‘there are a number of exempted applications for these substances and a number of products which will have limits imposed in the future.’

The BSGA originally announced that a further application for extension had not been put forward (an application needs to be submitted 18 months in advance), meaning the use of mercury for neon signage above the level permitted, will now be banned.

The exemption is due to expire at the end of 2018

Mike Hall, chair of the BSGA’s technical committee, explains: “The exemption is due to expire at the end of 2018 and, as any application for an extension must be submitted 18 months before the expiry date, it seems that the full ban on the use of mercury will come into effect on 31st December 2018.

“This will mean that any production of cold cathode lamps using mercury must cease from that date and even repairs and maintenance involving the use of mercury will probably be affected.”

Other substances over a certain level banned in new EEE items on the market include: lead, cadmium, mercury, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyl, and polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardants.

However, David Catanach, director of the BSGA, has shared more positive news and has since explained that the “matter has been handed over to the Technical Working Group of the European Sign Federation (ESF) as it was they who negotiated the exemption a couple of years ago.

The ESF will represent all of Europe (inside and out of the EU) with regards to legislation and standards affecting the sign industry. This way, it will be a much stronger approach

“The ESF will represent all of Europe (inside and out of the EU) with regards to legislation and standards affecting the sign industry. This way, it will be a much stronger approach to the authorities and will represent a much bigger industry than just one country can do on its own. They are dealing with the matter.”

Andy Nash of A1 Signs, and Graeme Browse, director of Sign-Tec Services, have also shared further good news, with an update surrounding the developments of the application. Whilst it cannot be confirmed what stage the process is currently at, the EU Commission and Parliament have given an extended period of time to get an application forward.

Let us hope that neon can be saved, as it is a stalwart of the sign industry and would be sorely missed. Despite the creations of intelligent product designs that can emulate neon signage, the production of neon would be a lost art. At present, the ESF are positive about an application being submitted, and are hopeful that the exemption will be granted to the neon industry, saving a traditional treasure.



If you have an interesting story or a view on this news, then please e-mail news@signlink.co.uk

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