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From the middle of next year, here in Europe and probably elsewhere in the world, lead based solders will be illegal. Replacement solder usually melt at higher temprature and are not as mechanically strong.
How would this affect maintenance of older electronic equipment (calculators). Should I stock large quantities of lead based solder or can anyone recommend an alternative?

Any ideas or clarification welcome.

Arnaud

Stock up? Unless you repair these calculators for profit or have a lot of them, one spool should last you for a long time. (for the older electronics, I certainly would suggest always using the lower temp solder to alieviate (reduce) thermal stress. But unless you repair on a continual basis, a single roll (or two) should last you a long time. But it isn't a prohibitive cost to have a few rolls for a security blanket if you so desire.

I was just thinking of buying 2 rolls instead of one!

Arnaud

Buy enough to last a lifetime. I will certainly stock up myself. You may consider to buy some stock of components as well. Many IC vendors are obsoleting products and this may be your last chance to get some in Europe, unless you can setup a 'grey' channel through the US.
Note that the rules are valid for parts of Asia as well (Japan even has more strict rules than Europe), so US manufacturers that build for export will have to comply with the rules.

There are theories that the Roman Empire fell due to the mental state of the leaders being influenced by the lead in the drinking water because of the lead plumbing (only the rich had plumbing, Pb is the chemical symbol of lead). Maybe these RoHS regulations have a good side after all ....

Meindert

Actually the Romans used lead salts to sweeten their wine... sweet idea.

Is that why lead acetate is called "sugar of lead"? ;-)

Hi folks,

two years ago, when noticing the legislation against lead-based solder, I went out and bought as much lead-based solder I could carry, 20 kilograms at least.

It is not advisable to use the new lead-free solders to repair our beloved HPs or any other electronics equipment based on leaded solder. Remember the trouble with old Tektronix scopes that needed a special silver-based solder because their electronic components were soldered to ceramic carriers ? Impossible to repair properly without the special solder !

Coming to repairs, the whole leadfree electronics campaign looks like a scam engineered by the consumer electronics industry which presumably might have bribed some corrupt EU politicians to pass such legislation.

Fact is, the new leadfree solders are less ductile and more brittle than lead solder and they won't stand vibrations and / or thermal cycles for a long time before they fail. From my own experience, it
is almost impossible to hand-solder them without damaging parts and printed circuit boards by thermal stress, except when working so quick as to risk a cold solder joint.

Be prepared for virtually throwaway (unrepairable) extremely short-lived consumer electronics from TV sets to cars. I will certainly not buy any of those.

Critical systems such as medical electronics, aircraft, military electronics etc. will continue to use the more reliable lead-based solder.

Only the consumers are the fools.

And of course, lead-based solder in any electronics is absolutely no health hazard as long as old equipment is properly disposed of and recycled. All the metals could be regained in the process.

So the remaining reasons for banning lead in solder are greed, corruption, and sheer stupidity.

BTW, when they banned leaded fuel in the 1980's they substituted it with benzene, a potent cancerogen. When the Nazis did the same with their synthetic fuel back in the late 1930s, the death rate of the pump attendants rose so quickly they had to switch the Reich's filling stations to self - service.

So, folks, be careful, especially when filling your cars... (wear disposable plastic gloves).

regards,
Bernhard

look at this:

http://www.chm.bris.ac.uk/motm/leadtet/leadh.htm

read the entry near the top about "sugar of lead"

Quote:
BTW, when they banned leaded fuel in the 1980's they substituted it with benzene, a potent cancerogen. When the Nazis did the same with their synthetic fuel back in the late 1930s, the death rate of the pump attendants rose so quickly they had to switch the Reich's filling stations to self - service.

I see to remember (it's been over 32 years since my last high school German class) that the German word for "gasoline" is "Benzin".

Quote:
So the remaining reasons for banning lead in solder are greed, corruption, and sheer stupidity.

That about sums up the 3 biggest reasons politicians do most things.

Chris W

Bernhard posted,

Quote:
BTW, when they banned leaded fuel in the 1980's they substituted it with benzene, a potent cancerogen. When the Nazis did the same with their synthetic fuel back in the late 1930s, the death rate of the pump attendants rose so quickly they had to switch the Reich's filling stations to self - service.

I spent two years in Germany, 1989-90. Is benzene the reason the high-octance gasoline smelled different from US formulations? I remeber the "benzene ring" from high-school chemistry, and that it was a toxic, aromatic hydrocarbon.

As for fatal illness from inhaling vapors -- I've noted that the filler-nozzle "vapor capturers" that were introduced in Germany in the late 1980's do make a big difference. They are mandatory in the US urban areas; I see and breathe more vapors when filling up in rural areas without these attachments.

-- KS

Edited: 18 Oct 2005, 2:39 a.m.

Bill posted,

Quote:
Is that why lead acetate is called "sugar of lead"? ;-)

I've never tasted it, but it is the active ingredient in clear Grecian Formula for restoring natural color to silver hair(not Grecian's dyed hair coloring).

-- KS

I grew up in northern Argentina where our water came to us in pure lead pipes. A bunch of us American kids went through a little English boarding school there because our parents were were afraid that otherwise we'd have trouble in school when coming back to the U.S.. An unusually high percentage of the kids went on to become doctors and engineers. The lead pipes certainly did not hurt our mental capabilities one bit.

As for temperature, I believe I read that the new lead-free solders melt at around 250ºC. Does anyone know if this is correct? 60/40 tin/lead melts at 185. When I worked in applications engineering at a VHF/UHF power transistor manufacturer 20 years ago, I sometimes had to do IR scanning of die surface temperatures with the transistor working under very stressed conditions to simulate a harsh military environment. When there'd be a void in the brazing that was supposed to attach the die to the package, sometimes I'd see temperatures over 350ºC while the transistor was operating. This dramatically shortened the life of the transistor (partly from accelerated metal migration), but did not cause catastrophic failure. I believe 500ºC was where it would go poof and fail with a flash, but as it got up there the runaway condition would happen too fast to measure the temperature, at least with the equipment we used at the time.

I understand the soldering temperature limitation on many plastic packages to be due to the fact that the plastic directly contacts the die inside the IC, and can damage it at high temperatures. As long as you're not soldering all the pins at once however, the die will not get that hot. My soldering iron idles at nearly 500ºC, which makes it easier to solder leads very quickly, before much heat has gotten into the part. I find that if I try to solder before the iron is up to temperature, it takes so much longer to transfer enough heat that it becomes much more likely that I can't hold the part with my hand. It gets too hot, ironically because the iron is not hot enough.

Anyway, I'll be stocking up for life with tin/lead solder for the things we don't sell.

Edited: 18 Oct 2005, 3:56 a.m.

Lead-free soldering in production is best done with a vapour phase setup. The temperature is much better controlled than infra-red reflow. Typically temperatures are between 230-250 degrees C, depending on the exact solder type.

Handsoldering is a different issue of course. I prefer high temperatures of my iron for the sake of speed as well.

Meindert

"...our water came to us in pure lead pipes...high percentage of the kids went on to become doctors and engineers...The lead pipes certainly did not hurt our mental capabilities one bit."

Another case of anecdotal "it never hurt grandma" lack of rational thinking. It would be interesting to see the mg/dL lead blood count of residents that may be still drinking from these.

The flow rate in the pipes and the water condition have more to do with it.

Boston has a much more serious lead problem in the water, due to the nature of the water there, which leaches the lead out faster than many other regions.

I think the point Garth is making is really that lead is not always some evil thing, and that it can be safely used--but hte devil is of course in the details.

Quote:
As for fatal illness from inhaling vapors -- I've noted that the filler-nozzle "vapor capturers" that were introduced in Germany in the late 1980's do make a big difference. They are mandatory in
the US urban areas; I see and breathe more vapors when filling up in rural areas without these attachments.

They're not mandatory in all US urban areas; or if they are, it's not enforced. Here in Birmingham, Alabama I've seen very few of them; in fact, I can't recall seeing one in the last few months. Most gas nozzles have circular "splash guards" but the vapor-capturing devices are much rarer around here. I frequently have to move to the upwind side of the nozzle to avoid breathing the vapors.

Quote:
I grew up in northern Argentina where our water came to us in pure lead pipes. A bunch of us American kids went through a little English boarding school there because our parents were were
afraid that otherwise we'd have trouble in school when coming back to the U.S.. An unusually high percentage of the kids went on to become doctors and engineers. The lead pipes certainly did
not hurt our mental capabilities one bit.

I recall reading somewhere that the lead-based glaze on expensive pottery probably was a greater source of upper-class lead poisoning in Rome than lead plumbing was.

Other speculation in addition to the lead salts used to sweeten the wine was that pueter (lead and tin) drinking cups were used to drink their wine. Being somewhat acidic, would also help the Roman to get his share of minerals.

The tomato got a bad rap by the Europeans in the middle ages (dark) about being a poisonous fruit, but again this was due to the lead used in their dishes which would react with the acid of the tomato.

The amount of lead in the water from the plumbing varies greatly depending upon the chemistry of the water, temperature, flow, etc. For example, the pot metal used in today's faucets contains trace amounts of lead. The first glass of water drawn i nthe moring will have the most lead in it from the faucet because the water standing in it overnight has time to leach out the lead.

Modern pewter is pure tin, or as pure as is practical. Antique pewter has perhaps 10% lead alloyed with the tin to make it harder. Actually, 98% of modern "pewter" isn't pewter at all but some sort of pot metal. You have to go out of your way to find real genuine pewter. (Tin isn't all that cheap ya know.)

Quote:
Another case of anecdotal "it never hurt grandma" lack of rational thinking. It would be interesting to see the mg/dL lead blood count of residents that may be still drinking from these.
The bottom line would be the extent of nerve and brain damage, regardless of the mg/dL. FWIW, we were definitely not isolated. We went into town often and knew a lot of people. Dementia, alzheimer's, senility, schitzophrenia, etc. did not seem to be as much of a problem as we see today in modern American society. I can't take the time now to do a web search to try to validate or invalidate that observation.

Interesting, or should I say, muy interasante. I'm glad you and those there apparently suffered no ill effects. I've
probably breathed in enough lead solder fumes from my own electronic projects to more than make up for lack of it in my water.

Just the other day on BBC's tech website I read this article:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/click_online/4341494.stm

where the effects of mere mcg/dL were discussed, so I was primed to just spout off a comment.

Wayne --

Good point; I shouldn't have assumed that Federal law required the vapor-capturing sleeves. I do most of my fueling in the state of Washington. Maybe it's a state law...

-- KS

AFAIK, US legislation limits benzene content of gasoline to 1%. German high octane fuel legally may have up to 5%, actual content varies around 3%. The vapors are most dangerous, but it will also penetrate the uninjured skin and move to the target tissues: fat, bone marrow, brain, where it accumulates. Short term toxic effects are damage to the bone marrow, decrease of blood coagulation capability, and destruction of capillary walls. Long term effects are immune system defects, mutations, and Leukemia. Trouble is, benzene vapors are heavier than air and accumulate towards the ground - especially city kids get their own special dose. Since internal combustion engines do not burn all the fuel, and with cold catalytic converter, cities typically have about 30 micrograms Benzene per cubic meter of air, mean value, which means high-traffic roads and in winter concentration may be much higher. Air at filling stations without the suction devices had 100 times that concentration. Not a very healthy place to work at, or to buy food like butter or icecream there (remember: fat accumulates Benzene like a sponge).

My ten cent about dangers of lead water pipes and soldering:

Depending on the water, the pipe's interior walls may cover with mineral deposits which shield the drinking water from coming in contact with the lead. The older the house, and the thicker the deposits, the better. Usually no danger then. But lead piping used with soft water (especially when the water is slightly acidic) may be a terrific health hazard. In any case, lab analysis will quickly and cheaply show proof whether the drinking water is contaminated or not.

When soldering, always use a device which draws away the toxic fumes. It's not only because of the lead, but also because of the flux agents.
Always wash your hands thouroughly after having touched lead-based solder and before touching any food. The real dangers with lead-based solder lurk when working with them and neglecting safety procedures. But once they are in a finished product, they are no danger to the user or consumer, as he will never touch (or is supposed to never touch) the circuit boards.

Hi Bernhard,

Too bad I didn't have you on my side in a heated discussion over on C.S. HP48 regarding environmental legislation some months back. A number of euros were bashing the US in every way and pretending that somehow Great Europe had a monopoly on clean living.

Of course what we all know is that all of our democratic governments are messy things full of good intentions, hidden agendas, outright corruption, greed and power struggles.

So we have crazy inconsistencies in laws in every place.

It is interesting how much more toxic benzene is than any of its close relatives (styrene, toluene, xylene, vinyl toluene etc) though even the relatives have some troubling aspects.

From briefly reading up on the subject, the real hazard of the benzene is that the mechanism of elimination from the body--metablolisis--leaves a number of extremely toxic residues. This also explains why the relatives with side chains are not as bad generally-they metabolize into less dangerous residues.

Lesson from this:

In chemistry, family relations mean little to toxicological specifics.

Never trust adulterated food products. e.g. hydrogenated oil. God Only Knows what that stuff really is and how our bodies deal with it.

Don't sniff your new chinese rubber boots--you might get a nasty headache and leukemia to boot.

I cannot even imagine how many thousands of chinese are probably being harmed by their enormous rubber industry.

Edited: 19 Oct 2005, 3:34 p.m.

http://nepp.nasa.gov/whisker/

Hi Bill,

you wrote:

"...Great Europe had a monopoly on clean living..."

this would make a good joke - if we weren't the victims. US citizens (total US population 296 Million) can hardly envision what it means to crowd 457 Million EU citizens into 41.6% of the space of the USA.

No wonder we Europeans have to endure more stench and dirt and hence, pretend to be more alert to environmental issues.

With some exceptions (such as LA) I found that US cities I visited had apparently cleaner air than any EU city I know of. From the airplane, a typical US city has a brown dome of air pollution over it and the rest of the sky is blue. Europe has a brown layer of air pollution all over its area and you need to climb a mountain to be above that brown toxic brine and enjoy a truly blue sky. Cities are worse than the countryside, of course.

One of the most evil scientific experiments currently being carried out in Europe is the field test of the effects of nanoparticles on the lungs of 457 Million human guinea pigs. Those who schemed that evil plan have developed a novel automotive diesel engine which produces lots of nanoparticles and they have passed laws which give vehicle tax benefits to cars using that engine, so these cars are everywhere now. Contrary to the stinking black clouds coming from prior art diesel engines which have larger (visible) particles that are filtered out and eliminated by the human's upper airways, the novel engines produce invisible nano-fine particles that pass the natural filters and go directly to the alveoli, where they accumulate any might even pass into the blood (as they are so small). The health hazard of those particles is under severe dispute. Those scientific studies who are paid for by the automotive industry claim no danger, while some critical voices were silenced by threat of lawsuits (or worse).

If the truth ever comes out, the resulting product liability ligitation might drive all of the european car manufacturers which have sold such cars into bankcrupty: some sources claim that in Austria alone (which has only 8.2 Million inhabitants, but the highest percentage of those cars on the road), 8000 children per year die (or get gravely ill) due to those diesel exhaust fumes. Extrapolate this number to all of Europe and no corporation, regardless of its size, will be able to pay the penalty.

Seems that in the US, you can be happy your gasoline is so cheap that diesel engines for consumer cars never got a significant foothold.

Regards,
Bernhard

In the USA (but not Canada) diesel fuel is much more expensive than gasoline (as much as $.70/gallon). This is because fuel oil is divided here. Oil soldto heat homes is heavily subsidized and dyed, and oil for diesel vehicles is undyed and taxed to pay for the subsidy. One thing that is periodically done to truck drivers is an inspection of their fuel tanks; if there's any dye found the driver is in a lot of trouble.

In Canada, diesel is about $.05/liter cheaper than gasoline.

Consequently, in the USA diesel is primarily a fuel for large trucks, buses, and ships. Diesel is considered by many Americans to be bad-smelling and dirty. There are only a few diesel cars, mostly European imports, none of which sold well.

The most common American consumer vehicle with a diesel engine is a motorhome (or RV); but even then, most motorhomes are gasoline powered and only the largest Class A motorhomes use diesel. Class B and Class C motorhomes are almost always gasoline.

The latest fad among the enviro-freaks is something called "biodiesel" which is made from soybeans rather than petroleum. Of course, they overlook the small detail of producing those soybeans...

As evidence that it may be the wrong things getting the attention again, I have a newspaper article here saying that a major cause of particulates in the air we breath in Southern California is-- ready for this?-- brake linings being ground down by all the stop-and-go traffic. So while emissions standards (in grams per mile at constant speeds) keep getting tighter, the problem of the number of miles gets no attention, our roads get more congested, and we end up with other problems.

National Geographic had an article on water several years ago where they estimated that 80% of the polution of our rivers, lakes, and streams was from urban runoff-- mostly engine oil and radiator and transmission fluid. All IC cars have these, and even hybrids do-- but not electric cars. Yet the auto manufacturers, who don't want to make them, push their FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) agenda about them.

I just pulled out a water quality report on our local ground water. There are apparently 2 parts per billion of lead in it, and the action level is 15 ppb. Leakage from the local landfill with a bunch of electronic waste is not one of the suspected contributors, but erosion of natural deposits is. Again the RoHS barks up the wrong tree. Maybe I need to get into medical or military electronics after all. Those two fields will be allowed to continue using lead because people's lives depend on the greater reliability lead gives.

Edited: 20 Oct 2005, 9:47 p.m.

Are you suggesting that there is a law banning use of lead solder in any electronics other than military or medical?

It this is true, all I can say is "my god, what has this world come to".

Lots of stupid laws. Just last month, Connecticut *banned* motor scooters (vespas, mopeds etc) as being too "dangerous". Great timing. Rising gasoline prices, so let's ban one of the tools to reduce consumption. 3 guys at work bought 4 cycle mopeds last year. 90 mpg in town riding. Now they will be illegal.

Oh, and by the way, motorcycles are extremely poplar in CT--and helmets are not required. (But children are required to wear bicycle helments--that's real consistent, huh). No discussion of banning *them*--only banning the "sissy" mopeds.

The diesel thing has always bothered me. I was in London in 1993. The place reaked of diesel all the time. Just a pall of diesel. Of course in Rostock, Germany in 1998, in the evening, it was a strong odor of coal--nothing compared to the soft coal smoke of the "former days" though...

Quote:
Are you suggesting that there is a law banning use of lead solder in any electronics other than military or medical?

RoHS (often pronounced "ROW-hoss"), the restriction of "hazardous" substances (including lead), goes into effect next July in Europe. Our company will no longer be able to export our products to Europe until we get away from lead and can certify that the product is safe. (If someone else exports it for us, I suppose that's their business. We don't have many customers there anyway.) Soon after that, some of the orient will be onboard. California has a very limited RoHS-like law that goes into effect in 2007. Chicken Little's band is growing.

Quote:
The diesel thing has always bothered me. I was in London in 1993. The place reaked of diesel all the time. Just a pall of diesel. Of course in Rostock, Germany in 1998, in the evening, it was a strong odor of coal--nothing compared to the soft coal smoke of the "former days" though...

Indeed. It always amuses me to have Europeans lecture North Americans about environmental stewardship, given what a complete mess they made of their continent. Perhaps they see themselves as civilized missionaries out to warn the ignorant savages. What hubris!

The "ignorant savages" in North America have more forested land today and much more wildlife than we had a century ago. Even our modern industrial areas, such as Prudhoe Bay, are places where wildlife thrives.

Whereas every time I go to Europe, I'm struck by how bad the air smells and how sickly the vegetation looks.

I'm sure that the European Union bureaucrats will attempt to ban the import of electronics that use lead solder. Fortunately the WTO should stomp that out.

Thanks for the link to the whiskers!

A tiny bit of return for all the useful information I have received from this site.

There is some confusion in terminology, depending a bit on where you live. Benzene with an "e" is the nasty stuff, C6H6, but in American English at least, benzine with an "i" is just another word for naphtha (i.e. lighter fluid, paint thinner, Coleman fuel, or white gas).