If your business manufactures or imports electronic products for sale in China, you should be aware of new product labeling requirements adopted this past November as part of China's Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) regulations. The China RoHS law is modeled after, but not identical to, the European Union's RoHS requirements. It provides a regulatory framework for hazardous material content restrictions, product marking and other material content disclosure requirements affecting a broad range of electronic products that are manufactured or imported for sale within China. The marking and information disclosure requirements take effect on March 1, 2007.

While there is considerable uncertainty about how strongly the marking and disclosure rule will be enforced, particularly initially, customers of U.S. manufacturers making products for the Chinese market are already asking whether their products are in compliance.

The rule requires electronic products containing specified toxic or hazardous substances (i.e., Pb, Cd, PBB, PBDE and hexavalent chromium) to be labeled, in orange, with a number representing the product's "environmental protection use period" (EPUP) surrounded by two chasing arrows. All other electronic products must display a green logo consisting of an "e" surrounded by two chasing arrows.

The best translation of the rule available (which is, however, unofficial) defines the EPUP as "the period during which the toxic or hazardous substances or elements contained in [the product] will not leak or mutate under normal operating conditions so that the use of [such products] will not result in any severe environmental pollution, any bodily injury or damage to any assets." To date, no further clarifying final rule or interpretation has been issued by Chinese authorities.

The disclosure portion of the rule requires that product instructions identify, in a table format specified by the rule, the toxic or hazardous substances contained in the product. Because the table appears in the original regulation in Chinese, presumably the PRC expects the disclosures to be in Chinese as well.

Restrictions on the toxic or hazardous materials allowed to be present in electronic products are to be included in a series of rulemakings that will be published at an unknown later date. These requirements are expected to apply to a much narrower list of electronic products than those subject to the marking requirements.