Rush PCB produces printed circuit boards (PCBs) as a platform for mounting electronic components such as semiconductor chips, resistors, and capacitors. Found virtually in all electronic products, PCBs have copper traces that provide the electrical interconnections between the components. With the proliferation of electronic gadgets and equipment, the once low-technology PCB has evolved into a high-technology product.
At Rush PCB, manufacturing printed circuit board is a highly complicated process, one requiring investments in several large equipment and involving over fifty process steps. We manufacture most of our high-speed miniature PCBs in clean-rooms, addressing the same concerns of health and safety as other microelectronic manufacturers do while manufacturing medical electronic equipment.
Apart from glycol-ethers, one of the major solvents the PCB industry commonly uses, large quantities of hazardous chemicals such as dimethyl formamide and formaldehyde are also in use. Lately, the PCB industry worldwide has made a serious effort to diminish the quantity of Lead it earlier used when manufacturing PCBs.
Waste Characteristics from PCB Manufacturing
There are typically three ways in which PCB manufacturing produces toxic materials waste:
- Air Emissions
- Solid and Hazardous Waste
Manufacturing PCBs produces potential air emissions from acids such as hydrochloric, sulfuric, nitric, phosphoric, and acetic; vapors from ammonia and chlorine; organic solvent vapors from acetone, isopropanol, trichloroethylene; petroleum distillates, xylene, acetate, and ozone depleting substances.
Assembling PCBs may produce air emissions such as from fumes of the soldering process, organic solvent vapors, including from organic acids, flux vapors, aldehydes and similar.
Although chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) had been a preferred organic solvent for a variety of applications within the PCB manufacturing industry, most countries have now banned their use as these compounds exhibit a high potential for ozone depletion.
Manufacturing PCBs produces a number of effluents rich in vinyl polymers, organic solvents, stannic oxide, and metals such as nickel, copper, iron, tin, chromium, palladium, lead, gold, cyanides, fluorides and fluoborates, sulfates, acids, and ammonia. Some metals may also form complex compounds with chelation agents.
Assembling PCBs may also produce effluents containing alkalis, acids, metals, fluxes, and organic solvents. Electroplating processes may produce effluents containing sulphates, cyanides, fluorides, and several metals.
Solid and Hazardous Waste
PCB manufacturing operations also produce solid waste that may occasionally be considered hazardous. Such solid waste may include inks, plating and hydroxide sludges, and scrap board material.
PCB assembly operations may also produce solid waste in the form of scrap boards, solder dross, rejected, broken, or discarded components, metals, and organic solvents. Assemblers may also treat some boards with brominated flame retardants, which may cause environmental risk when such boards are discarded in landfills.
As such, environmentalists consider all conventional electronics as hazardous in landfills, due to the presence of lead and other metal salts, specifically if a post-soldering operation has not cleaned them.
Apart from the above, PCB manufacturing may also produce sludges containing heavy metals. This is specifically the case where industries operate waste water treatment plants. Organic solvent waste residues may also be present requiring management and disposal.
Safely Considerations with Toxic Materials
PCB manufacturing and PCB assembly uses and produces many substances that are toxic enough to cause serious harm if they enter the body of individuals. Rush PCB recommends taking safety measures such as:
- Working safely with toxic materials
- Substituting with a less hazardous material where possible
- Using good ventilation when working with toxic materials
- Using warning signs and clear identification when storing toxic materials
- Storing toxic material out of direct sunlight and in well ventilated spaces
- Handling toxic materials safely
- Disposing toxic material and waste safely
- Wearing personal protective equipment
Good Housekeeping is Important
Preventing exposure to toxic material is very important during manufacture and assembly of PCBs. For this, Rush PCB suggests good housekeeping, as a clean and orderly workplace is safer for everyone. For instance, Rush PCB uses:
- Appropriate spill control equipment and procedures to clean up any spills and build-up of toxic materials promptly and safely.
- A pre-wetting technique and a vacuum cleaning equipped with a high-efficiency filter instead of dry sweeping of solid materials.
- Proper disposal procedures for unlabeled and contaminated chemicals.
- Waste containers compatible with the toxic material.
- Properly labeled containers and storage for each toxic material.
Handling Toxic Materials Safely
All personnel who must handle the toxic materials need special training to do their jobs properly and safely. Rush PCB suggests the following:
- Use only the smallest amount of chemical necessary for the job.
- Never allow toxic vapor, dusts, mists, or gases to enter the workplace air—use proper exhaust techniques.
- Avoid body exposure by wearing appropriate personal protective equipment for the eyes, respiration, and the skin.
- Awareness of typical symptoms of poisoning and first aid procedures. Training should include immediate reporting to the supervisor any signs of illness or exposure.
- Medical attention depending on the material, even when the exposure does not seem excessive.
- Never allow returning unused or contaminated material to the original container.
- Label containers legibly and inspect regularly for leakages or damage before handling.
- Ensure container lids remain tightly closed when not in use.
- Suitable emergency equipment for leaks, spills, and fires must readily be available.
- Suitable emergency shower/eyewash stations must readily be available.
- Open containers for transferring material using proper tools—prevent spillage.
- Be careful when pouring toxic liquids—avoid spurting and splashing.
- Never allow soldering, cutting, welding, or any other hot work on piping or containers unless they are free from all toxic vapors and liquid.
- Maintain good housekeeping—do not allow accumulation of dust etc.
Disposal of Waste Toxic Materials
Safe disposal of waste toxic material is extremely important for the environment. Rush PCB suggests the following:
- Always comply with local, provincial, and federal requirements when disposing toxic material. Requirements may vary depending on the jurisdiction.
- Never allow flushing of toxic material down sewers or sanitary drains, as this method of disposal is illegal and unsafe practice.
- Never allow mixing of hazardous waste material with regular garbage that is destined for a landfill.
- Use only waste containers compatible with the waste material.
- Properly and accurately label all waste containers.
- Never allow mixing incompatible mixtures in a single waste container—avoid potential spills, fires, or explosions.
- Never allow overfilling of liquid waste containers—allow filling only to about three-quarters capacity for vapors to expand. This reduces the potential for spills when moving overfilled containers.
- Do not allow reusing empty containers as they may still be hazardous from the leftover toxic residue. Arrange for safe and proper decontamination before reusing the container.
Personal Cleanliness is Essential
Personal cleanliness is essential for those working with toxic materials. This provides protection not only for self but also for others (coworkers and family members). Rush PCB suggests the following:
- Always wash hands before smoking, drinking, eating, or visiting the toilet.
- Remove contaminated clothing and shoes, and wash them thoroughly in water before discarding or re-use.
- Always store food and tobacco products in uncontaminated areas.
- Make a conscious effort to not touch eyes or face with contaminated hands.
- Never allow gum chewing when working with toxic materials.
- Even when following all the above, it is necessary to wash thoroughly at the end of the workday.
At present, the world is facing a deluge from electronic waste or e-waste, comprising a multitude of components and materials, some toxic and hazardous, leading to an adverse impact on human health and the environment. Eminent electronic industries and PCB manufacturers such as Rush PCB are in the forefront of treating and disposing toxic and hazardous waste material they generate and using approved waste disposal and/or recycling operations.