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Neon’s light will not be extinguished

The Restriction of Hazardous Substance (RoHS) regulations restrict the use of mercury. This is detrimental to the neon sign industry.

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Neon was set to disappear after December 2018 as no application for exemption was submitted

Up until December of this year, there was an exemption in place that allowed neon signs to be made using mercury. With time running out for the neon sign industry, there had been no application put forward for an extension.

It is a distressing situation, as glass shops and sign companies were seeing a boom in demand for neon signage for restaurants, shops and bars.

Now, upon closer reading of the regulations by colleagues and the British Sign and Graphics Association, this ban will not actually apply to the majority of neon signs. David Derbyshire, president of the BSGA, explains: “A close re-read of the exemption application and the consultants’ report to the European Commission, highlighted some issues.

However, high voltage signs using mercury lamps are currently outside the scope of the RoHS regulations, as are ‘large installations’

“It is true that individual low voltage cold cathode lighting lamps containing mercury should no longer be produced after December 2018. However, high voltage signs using mercury lamps are currently outside the scope of the RoHS regulations, as are ‘large installations’. So, if the sign uses more than 1000V to drive the lamps, RoHS does not apply.” 

Derbyshire adds that the majority of neon sign installations do indeed fall into the category of using over 1000V.

While this is definitely good news as there was a worry we would lose an important and exciting part of the industry, it is not the end of the story. The BSGA and its European counterpart, the European Sign Federation (ESF), believe that when an authority cottons on to the larger installations using mercury, a change in the rules will be made.

The BSGA are currently working alongside the ESF with this threat in mind, to create a plan of action and a registration system called EcoNeon. The idea is to have a system of auditing fabrication techniques, clocking the materials used and waste disposal etc, to defend the use of mercury in neon signs.

Derbyshire adds: “The aim is to go toward demonstrating to the European Authorities that neon signs need not be included within the mercury ban. The key to this happening will be for the people who make, install and sell neon signs and artwork to take an active role to defend their livelihood and the market for neon signs.”



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

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