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In case you don't know the ROHS directive is coming into force in the UK and I believe EU on 1st July 2006. All (with a few exceptions ) electronic equipment bought into service after that date must be free of certain hazardous substances, lead being one of them.

 

This has proved a real pain in the asp for manufacturers having to use lead free solder and have lead free finishes on boards and only buy in components with lead free tinning.

 

The chip manufacturers have been phasing in lead free finishes for the last couple of years. However it seems that Microchip have a lot of leaded stock left which they are selling off cheap at

 

http://www.microchipdirect.com/LeadPromo.aspx

 

I believe that hobbyists are exempt from ROHS (don't sell anything though) and of course some parts of the world don't have to comply yet or have similar restriction.

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