Lead Safety Law Creates New Danger for Youth Off Road Vehicles

A new law to make products safer for our children may place them in a different, yet greater danger.

In February of this year the Consumer Protections Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA) went into effect to ensure that products manufactured for children 12 years of age and younger are safe from lead contamination. This new law mandates that any product which includes toys, books, clothing, bicycles, off-road youth motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), have a lead content that is no more than 600 parts per million by weight.

While this law seems to make sense and is a positive step in protecting children from lead poisoning, the Consumer Protection Safety Commission (CPSC) may have over-reacted in the case of off-road youth motorcycles and ATVs. The CPSC included the lead levels of all components including the engine, suspension, battery, brakes and other mechanical parts which young riders will never have contact with, let alone put in their mouths.

The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), a not-for-profit organization, in partnership with The All-Terrain Vehicle Association, represents over 300,000 motorcyclists and all-terrain vehicle riders nationwide. According to Edward Moreland, Vice President of Government Relations of the AMA, “Most motorcycle and ATV components are compliant with the CPSIA’s lead limits, but some components unavoidably contain small quantities of lead limits in excess of the limits. The nature and location of these components, (i.e., battery terminals and valve stems) suggests a very minimal exposure risk.”

The enactment of this law has suspended the sale of youth sized motorcycles and ATVs. The AMA believes that the CSPIA may be creating a new danger for children by forcing them to ride full-size adult models which are more powerful and harder for young riders to control.

Nancy Nord, acting chairwoman of the CPSC is also concerned about this issue and says,

“The application of the lead-content mandates of the CPSC to the products made by the petitioners may have the perverse effect of actually endangering children by forcing youth-sized vehicles off the market and resulting in children riding the far more dangerous adult-sized ATVs.”

The CPSC recently denied a request from the youth motorcycle and ATV industry to exclude these products form the Lead Limits under Section 101 of the CPSIA. However in early May 2009 the CPSC voted to support a stay of enforcement effective through May 2011.

Ms. Nord comments, “She hopes state attorneys general, who also enforce consumer protection laws, will follow the CPSC action and use restraint because enforcement discretion is an important tool that is needed to reach thoughtful and effective outcomes that enhance consumer safety.”

In a letter to the National Association of Attroneys General (NAAG), Edward Moreland asked for clarification of the ruling, asking if state attorneys general would enforce the law in light of Ms. Nord’s opinion.

The response from the NAAG indicated the association had not taken a position on the enforcement of this law and that the attorney general of each state would determine their level of enforcement. The NAAG recommended that Mr. Moreland contact a specific state attorney general directly for their position on the enforcement policy.

The AMA is now asking for those who support youth motorcycle and ATV riding to contact their state attorney general’s office either by regular mail or a pre-written email to ask if they intend to follow the direction of the CPSC.