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Intel, National Semiconductor Get The Lead Out

Intel Corp. and National Semiconductor Corp. on Wednesday said they would ship significantly more lead-free products by the end of year as the high-tech industry races to meet stringent environmental regulations in Europe and Japan.

Intel plans to eliminate about 95 percent of the lead used in its processors and chipsets, while National expects to offer lead-free packages for all its integrated-circuit products. About 90 percent of National's portfolio of 15,000 ICs are lead-free today, the company said.

Brain damage and other health dangers associated with lead exposure has prompted governments to ban the metal's use in a variety of products, including paint, automobile fuel, food cans, light bulbs and plumbing solder and fixtures.

The Europe Union and Japan, however, have passed stricter regulations than the U.S., banning the import of most lead-free products in 2006 and 2005, respectively. To meet those deadlines, Intel, National and other high-tech manufacturers have been scrambling to develop alternative alloys and to modify manufacturing processes to build environmentally safe, lead-free products.

"There's a tremendous amount of work to be done and it's going to be a real challenge to meet those deadlines," Bob Pfahl, vice president for operations at the National Electronics Manufacturing Initiative, an industry consortium based in Herndon, Va.

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