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Consumer Product Safety Commission poised to vote on excluding youth OHVs from lead law

April 07, 2009

The federal Consumer Product Safety Commission is set to vote soon on whether to grant an exemption for youth-model motorcycles and ATVs to a new lead law that currently prohibits them from being offered for sale.

The law is the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), which went into effect in February. It was meant to protect children 12 and under from toys containing lead. But the law also covers youth-model motorcycles and ATVs, meaning they can't be sold unless they are granted an exclusion from the law.

Under the CPSIA, all youth products containing lead must have less than 600 parts per million by weight. The CPSC has interpreted the law to apply to various components of youth-sized off-highway vehicles (OHV) including the engine, brakes, suspension, battery and other mechanical parts. Even though the lead levels in these parts are small, they are still above the minimum threshold.

Acting CPSC Chairman Nancy Nord has already indicated she will vote against granting an exemption, but will support a one-year moratorium on enforcing the lead law to give Congress an opportunity to change the law. The only other commissioner on the panel, Thomas Moore, hasn't indicated how he will vote.

Meanwhile, U.S. Senate and House members have written letters to Nord and Moore urging them to grant the exclusion from the law for youth-model motorcycles and ATVs that is being sought by the industry and others.

"While the Act was passed with laudable intent, it has created a well-documented safety hazard for children, a severe and unwarranted disruption to families who recreate together, and a deleterious effect on youth amateur racing," said the U.S. Senate letter.

"Additionally, the inclusion of OHVs has created an economic disaster for an industry which is already reeling from the recession, is facing countless layoffs and is estimated to be losing $3 million per day due to the Act," the letter said.

The U.S. House letter noted that House members are particularly concerned with the unintended safety consequences of the lead law.

"As you may know, the OHV community and the CPSC have worked extensively together to develop appropriate OHV size and operating guidelines for young riders," the House letter said. "To suddenly eliminate the availability of all youth OHVs is counterproductive to all the work that the OHV community and the CPSC have done to promote youth rider safety.

"If the petition requesting an exclusion is not granted, some consumers will likely purchase vehicles that are physically too large for young riders, exposing them to unnecessary risk," the letter said. "By eliminating these vehicles because of the suspicion that they may pose a theoretical threat of a lead hazard effectively trades away a proven safety intervention with an unproven one."
 
The CPSC needs to take action to stop the unintended consequences of its widespread ban on children's toys, noted Sen. Jon Tester, vice chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus, sponsor of S. 608 and one of the original co-signers of the Senate letter.

"I introduced legislation to put common sense back into the equation and to keep motorsports an important part of our outdoor heritage," Sen. Tester said. "Access to the outdoors is an American value, and motorsports provide that access for countless families. Young folks ought to be able to ride bikes and ATVs responsibly, not be held back because of rules that apply to toys."

Rep. Rehberg, an original co-signer of the House letter and whose bill, H.R. 1587, is also intended to eliminate the ban, echoed those sentiments.

"While Congress is working on a permanent legislative fix to this serious misapplication of the law, I hope that the Commission does the responsible thing by exempting youth-sized off-road vehicles like ATVs, motorcycles and snowmobiles from the overreaching federal lead regulations," he said. "I'm glad I have the opportunity to work with the American Motorcyclist Association on an issue of such importance to so many Montanans."

Noted Rep. Herseth Sandlin, also one of the original co-signers of the House letter: "It was clearly not Congressional intent to ban the sale of youth motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles. Providing a common-sense exemption for these products will ultimately protect the safety of young riders by ensuring availability of appropriately sized machines."

AMA members and others can take action by clicking on the "Rights" section of this website and then "Issues and Legislation." AMA members will also find a self-addressed card in the May issue of American Motorcyclist that they can mail directly to the CPSC.

Interested parties can also sign up to get e-mail Action Alerts in the "Rights" section to keep abreast of issues threatening motorcycling and ATV riding.

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