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Last chance saloon for neon?

Last chance saloon for neon?

Mike Hall, Chairman of the British Sign and Graphics Association (BSGA) Technical Committee, has recently provided an update on the anticipated ban on the use of mercury in neon signs.

He said: “Despite certain sections of the lighting industry predicting their demise, neon signs do have a future, but changes will need to be made if they are to continue.

“In 2019, the use of mercury in neon signs will be banned under the RoHS Regulations. The 2015 neon sign exemption was due to end in December this year and, since no application for an extension had been submitted, it seemed likely that the use of mercury in the manufacture of neon tubes and signs would have to cease at the end of 2018 throughout Europe.

“What this meant in practice was that, despite the increased use of internally exposed neon in retail, leisure and many other applications, from 2019 it would have been a case of telling customers that they could select any colour they liked, just as long as it was pink or red!

“However, David Derbyshire, the President of the BSGA, has announced that following much consultation and challenging work by colleagues in the industry, along with the BSGA, this ban will not apply to the majority of neon signs, as a close re-read of the exemption application and the consultants’ report to the European Commission, highlighted some issues.

“It is true that individual low voltage cold cathode lighting lamps containing mercury can no longer be produced after December 2018. However, high voltage signs using mercury lamps are currently outside the scope of the RoHS Regulations, as they are classified as ‘large installations’. This means that if a sign uses more than 1000V to drive the lamps, the RoHS ruling does not apply and, since BSGA research has found that the clear majority of neon sign installations fall into this category of over 1000V, for the moment at least, all is well as far as high voltage neon signs are concerned.

“Despite this, It is clear that this situation will eventually change as the BSGA, and its colleagues in the European Sign Federation (ESF), expect that at some point, an authority will suggest that high voltage neon signs are included in the ban.

“With this possibility in mind, the BSGA and others are currently working with the ESF to formulate a plan of action and registration system for glass shops and installers of neon called EcoNeon. The intention is to have a system of auditing fabrication techniques, accounting for materials used and waste disposal in place, to defend the continued use of mercury in neon signs.

“The aim is to demonstrate to the European authorities that neon signs need not be included within the mercury ban and if the EcoNeon scheme is adopted it will really benefit those businesses engaged in the neon sector.”

Mike added: “The success of this will largely depend on those who make, install and sell neon signs and artwork taking an active role to defend their livelihoods and the market for neon signs”.

The BSGA thus urges anyone who wants to play a part in protecting and promoting neon signs in the future to contact Mike at so that it can begin to devise a strategy.

The BSGA will announce any further developments as and when they occur.


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