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  6. Reducing Hazardous Substances in Products

Reducing Hazardous Substances in Products

In order to reduce the use of hazardous substances in all Nikon products, the Nikon Group has extensively promoted the development of lead- and arsenic-free glass as well as the establishment of lead-free soldering technologies and hexavalent chromium-free technologies in surface treatment. In response to the enforcement of the new RoHS Directive* in Europe on January 3, 2013, we will further enhance both these technologies and our quality assurance system to ensure even stricter compliance with the new directive.

  • *RoHS Directive

    "RoHS" stands for "Restriction of Hazardous Substances." This directive was adopted by the EU in 2003. It restricts the use of certain hazardous chemical substances in electrical and electronic equipment with a view to minimizing the risks that these substances pose to the environment and human health.

Discontinued use of ozone-layer-depleting substances

The Nikon Group had gradually decreased the use of ozone-layer-depleting substances (HCFCs) as refrigerants for equipment until finally discontinuing their use for equipment shipped in and after the year ended March 31, 2009.

Development of lead- and arsenic-free glass

In the 1990s, recognizing that the lead and arsenic used in most optical glass at the time posed the most significant product-related environmental problems, the Nikon Group developed a special type of optical glass that contains no lead or arsenic is therefore environmentally friendly. Since then, we have endeavored to use only lead- and arsenic-free glass in optical products.
Except for some products with unique specifications, we have achieved nearly 100% usage of lead- and arsenic-free glass. In the year ended March 31, 2013, lead- and arsenic-free glass usage rates in new designs were 100% for consumer products and 99.9% for industrial products.

Full-scale adoption of lead-free solder

Under the leadership of the electric technology departments of Nikon Corporation and Sendai Nikon Corporation and in collaboration with the product development and manufacturing departments, other Group companies, and its business partners, the Nikon Group has established a lead-free soldering system. Instead of lead-based, we use lead-free tin-silver-copper solders, which represent the standard solder type used in the industry.
The properties of the materials used in lead-free soldering, such as the narrow range of allowable temperatures, mean that manual soldering requires a high degree of skill. For this reason, the Nikon Group added a course on lead-free soldering to its in-house training and technical certification system and has already trained numerous instructors and certified technicians.
By implementing measures such as these, we have striven to increase the use of lead-free solder. In the year ended March 31, 2013, we again maintained a use rate of 100% lead-free circuit boards for all our consumer products, including digital SLR cameras, which form our core product category. In principle, we have also eliminated lead from all new circuit boards used in industrial products (such as steppers and scanners, microscopes, and surveying instruments).

Use of hexavalent chromium-free technology in surface treatment

Having reviewed its technologies and processes for chromate treatment and chrome plating, Nikon Corporation's surface treatment department discontinued the use of highly hazardous hexavalent chromium at the end of 2004. By applying the department's innovative findings and accumulated expertise to all Nikon product categories, we have established hexavalent chromium-free surface treatment technologies.
The Nikon Group has established a strict technical standard to discontinue the use of heavy metals (hexavalent chromium, lead, cadmium, and mercury) in all surface treatment processes including coating, plating, and chemical conversion. To ensure that this technical standard is practiced rigorously in all product categories, we, in cooperation with our various business partners contracted to perform surface treatment processes, take all possible steps, including individual technical assistance, strict on-site audits, and checks based on chemical analysis of actual items.

Chemical analysis techniques used by the quality assurance departments

The Nikon Group is in the process of discontinuing the use of hexavalent chromium, lead, cadmium, mercury, PBB, PBDE, PVC, and other hazardous chemical substances in all of its products. Nikon products are made from an astonishingly large number of materials and components and pass through the hands of numerous business partners before reaching completion. To fully eliminate the use of hazardous chemical substances in Nikon products, in addition to establishing a green procurement system (see pp. 58-60), it is essential that we inspect various materials using chemical analysis. We have therefore introduced chemical analysis technologies to our quality assurance departments and other departments involved in the production of Nikon products. We also educate our engineers on analysis technologies and the related know-how to prevent hazardous chemical substances from making their way into Nikon products.

Response to regulations on hazardous chemical substances

At present, a range of new regulations on chemical substances are being enacted around the world. Backing up this trend is the tremendous progress that has already been made toward the establishment of an international framework for the appropriate management of chemical substances. Significant milestones include the announcement of the Rio Declaration* in 1992, in which the "preventive approach" was proposed, and the adoption of the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation* and SAICM*. The Nikon Group is striving to manage chemical substances in line with the established international framework and to ensure compliance with related laws and regulations in order to protect human health and reduce environmental risks.
Among the new regulations, the REACH Regulation* enforced in June 2007 has had a considerable impact on the international regulation of chemical substances to the extent that it is now essential that manufacturers manage the use of chemical substances in their products. Since 2011, the Nikon Group has been steadily utilizing information technology to survey the use of hazardous chemical substances in its products and manage the relevant information throughout its supply chain, thereby complying with REACH and other regulations on hazardous chemical substances in a strict, prompt, and efficient manner.

  • *Rio Declaration on Environment and Development

    Declaration composed of 27 principles that was made at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992.

  • *Johannesburg Plan of Implementation

    This plan, which was made in 2002, sets out the specific issues to be tackled by governments of each participating country for the achievement of the following target: "By 2020, chemicals are used and produced in ways that lead to the minimization of significant adverse effects on human health and the environment."

  • *SAICM

    The Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management, an international agreement on the management of chemical substances made to achieve the target of the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.

  • *REACH Regulation

    A regulation on chemical substances issued by the European Union (EU) in 2007. "REACH" stands for the "Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals," and manufacturers and importers of chemical substances are mandated to register information on the safety and use of these substances under the regulation.