Assessing the replacement of lead in solders: effects on resource use and human health
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Human health and environmental concerns are not usually considered at the same time. Tin-lead solders are still widely used in several countries, including Brazil, by manufacturers of electronic assemblies. One of the options to reduce or eliminate lead from the manufacturing environment is its replacement with lead-free alloys. This paper applies emergy synthesis and the DALY indicator (Disability Adjusted Life Years) to assess the impact of manufacturing soft solder using tin, lead and other metals on the environment and on human health. The results are presented together with the company's financial results and the results calculated from the Brazilian statistical value of life. The calculation of emergy per unit showed that more resources are used to produce one ton of lead-free solders than to produce one ton of tin-lead solders, with and without the use of consumer waste recovered through a reverse logistics system. The assessment of air emissions during solder production shows that the benefits of the lead-free solution are limited to the stages of manufacturing and assembling. The tin-lead solder appears as the best option in terms of resource use efficiency and with respect to emissions into the atmosphere when the mining stage is included. A discussion on the influence of the system's boundaries on the decision-making process for materials substitution is presented. (C) 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.