New EU Lead Law Would Restrict Construction of New Organs

Classic Arts News   New EU Lead Law Would Restrict Construction of New Organs
 
The future of British and other European organs is in jeopardy because of a European Union law that will ban the use of lead in organ pipes, according to the Institute of British Organ Building.

The WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) directive goes into effect July 1. Intended to restrict the dumping of items such as computers and mobile phones into landfill sites. it limits the use of hazardous substances such as lead in equipment that has electrical components.

The IBO has recommended to the U.K.'s Department of Trade and Industry that pipe organs be excluded from the new directive.

A mechanical, hand-blown organ would be exempt, but if that same organ was fitted with any element of electrical control, as most are, it would be subject to the directive. A web site set up by the IBO to protest the law (pipes4organs.org) points out that "due to extreme longevity, organ pipes need never enter the landfill waste system and can always be recycled by organbuilders into more pipes."

Organ pipes have been made from tin/lead alloy, the properties of which contribute to the tone and voicing of the instrument, for centuries. Tin/lead alloy also has the structural strength to support its own weight for hundreds of years and has a vital role in the production of pipes.

Organ builders have experimented with other metals to replace lead, but have yet to come up with an alternative that would sustain the sound. In addition to preventing the production of future organs, the directive would also mean that a new method would have to be found to restore existing organs in Britain's cathedrals and churches.


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