XRF Analysis Helps Meet New EU Plastics Rules

X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analysis, one of the lesser-known testing methods for most plastics processors, is acquiring new value for compounders and processors of consumer packaging materials and electrical/electronic equipment sold to European Union (EU) countries.

X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analysis, one of the lesser-known testing methods for most plastics processors, is acquiring new value for compounders and processors of consumer packaging materials and electrical/electronic equipment sold to European Union (EU) countries. That’s because XRF analysis readily determines the concentrations of metals and certain other elements, such as bromine and chlorine, in plastics.


New EU directives restrict the concentrations of toxic metals in plastic materials. Already in place is EU Directive 94/62/EC, which sets 100 ppm as the highest allowable concentration of lead, cadmium, mercury and hexavalent chromium—added together—in consumer packaging. Coming in July, EU Directive 2002/95/EC, “Restriction of Hazardous Substances” (RoHS), will limit those metals plus polybrominated biphenyls and polybrominated diphenyl ethers in waste E/E equipment to 100 ppm for cadmium and 1000 ppm for each of the other substances.


In our Dec. 2004 issue, we reported on the first hand-held XRF analyzer for automatic detection and quantification of those EU-regulated substances in plastics. The XLt Plastics Analyzer from Niton LLC, Billerica, Mass., was developed to help U.S. and other manufacturers meet those EU directives. According to director of sales and marketing Tom Anderson, the instrument can also detect the presence or absence of chlorine, which is useful for sorting PVC materials from recycling streams.