The new [European Union] directive, to come into force in July, limits the proportion of hazardous substances like lead, mercury or cadmium to 0.1 percent of a finished product that works on electricity.But I'm thinking the pipe organ folks are making a big, windy noise, since there is a way to apply for an exemption. Instead of doing that, they're going to the press and complaining, stirring up the usual antipathy toward government regulation. Obviously, the concern about lead in landfills is valid. Just go get your exemption. And pipe down.
"We are caught in an absurd anomaly," said Doug Levey, a spokesman for the Institute of British Organ Building, which says it represents most of the country's 400 organ builders in about 65 companies.
The directive, approved by European governments four years ago, was intended to address problems caused by the disposal of products like cellphones or computer circuit boards. Dumped in landfills, the argument goes, discarded items of consumer electronics pollute groundwater as hazardous substances are leached from them.
But no one, it seems, had thought of the organ builders, whose products make unlikely candidates for landfills. Disused organ pipes, some of them containing 50 percent lead or lead-tin alloy, are usually melted down for reuse, Mr. Levey said. New pipe organs, he said, can cost from $85,000 to $850,000 and upward.
A manually powered organ, Mr. Levey pointed out, would not be covered by the directive, no matter how much lead was used. However, he said, "if in the name of progress you use an electronic fan to provide the wind, the same organ with the same amount of lead falls within the restrictions."
March 22, 2006
The NYT reports: