CPSIA Lead Ban Update – What Now?

June 16, 2011
JC Hilderbrand
JC Hilderbrand
Off-Road Editor|Articles|Articles RSS|Blog |Blog Posts |Blog RSS

Hilde is holding down the fort at MotoUSA's Southern Oregon HQ. With world-class dirt bike and ATV trails just minutes away, the hardest part is getting him to focus on the keyboard. Two wheels or four, it doesn't matter to our Off-Road Editor so long as it goes like hell in the dirt.

August 14, 2008 is not a date that’s burned into the American psyche. Unfortunately, for those who ride motorcycles and ATVs with their kids, it marked the beginning of a long, frustrating battle to preserve our way of life. It’s been a long time since the Consumer Protection Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA) started a major uproar in the powersports

Videos Our Sponsor

See the affected bikes in action and hear from families that are built around riding motorcycles together in our CPSIA Lead Law Update Video.

industry, but where do things stand now? It’s been almost three years since the CPSIA became public law and our industry and lawmakers are still in a state of limbo. MotoUSA borrowed some of the most popular machines for young riders to see what we’d all be missing out on, and talked to families to get their take on this ridiculous law.

First off, let’s revisit exactly what the CPSIA involves.

Title I of the Act spells out the details and it doesn’t take much to be over the proposed limit. That limit also drops over time. Originally it was set to be “600 parts per million total lead content by weight for any part of the product.” One year after the date of enactment it lowers to 300 ppm and down to 100 ppm after three years. The purpose of the so-called Lead Law was to prevent children from the dangers of ingesting lead. Obviously it was well-intended, but the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) was too broad with its application to any product intended for children age 12 and under. Lead is found in many parts of an OHV such as battery terminals, tire valve stems, frames, engine cases, fasteners, carburetors, etc.

Once the reality began to settle in, OEMs started to realize that not only was the lead content a problem, but the cost associated with mandatory third-party testing was going to be unfeasible as well. When the ban went into effect on Feb 10, 2009, not only did it prohibit the sale of new motorcycles and ATVs, but also aftermarket components, replacement parts and used machines.

MotoUSA borrowed some of the most popular machines for young riders to see what wed all be missing out on  and talked to families to get their take on this ridiculous law.
Most manufacturers, including the Big 5 of Yamaha, Kawasaki, Suzuki, KTM and Honda, would suffer major losses without their childrens’ models. Merely testing for lead would be cost prohibitive enough for manufacturers to shut the small bikes down.

Malcolm Smith staged a popular protest in the face of heavy fines when he decided to sell a trio of banned motorcycles in March of 2009 to Jeff Ward and Troy Lee. He was never assessed the $100,000 penalty per bike.

Rider rights advocates like the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), Specialty Vehicle Institute of America (SVIA) and Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) jumped on board immediately with campaigns against the ban. The initial uproar of concerned motorcyclists and ATV riders put the CPSC on guard and so the finger pointing began. Congress enacted the law and charged the CPSC federal agency with enforcing it. The Lead Law was written with a clause that allowed

Having small machines to learn on is critical for the health of our sport. Eliminating them creates a bigger problem than lead by forcing kids onto bikes that are too large and powerful for their skill.

the CPSC to exclude products which were deemed safe based on the “best-available, objective, peer-reviewed, scientific evidence.” In order to be excluded the product cannot contribute to the absorption of any lead into the human body. Sounds great, but not really… The CPSC won’t pull the trigger on exclusions because of the way the clause is written. It says “any lead” which means absolutely zero, and that’s tough to prove.

Congress says “we gave you the power, don’t look at us.” CPSC says “you tied our hands.” And so nothing has come to change. The first stay of enforcement expired and another was put in its place which is set to run out on December 31, 2011. That means if nothing changes in the next six months this might be the last time to surprise Junior with a new bike on Christmas morning. At least for a while – we could see another temporary band aid or Congress could go in and fix the law.

There have been several pieces of legislation which attempt to amend the CPSIA. So far they have not been successful, but positive feedback in recent months shows that the effort to get this situation fixed is gaining popularity with lawmakers and with the public. In the past three years, not only have people realized that the lead content is not truly a concern for this type of product, but the inappropriate law itself has caused a real danger to children. Even though kids’ bikes are still being sold at the moment, if they were to be fully banned, that isn’t going to stop kids from riding dirt bikes and ATVs. They’ll just be riding the wrong type of machine – machines much too large for their skill and ability.

MotorcycleUSA had a very informative interview with AMA Vice President for Government Relations, Ed Moreland, which filled in a lot of questions about the political landscape. But, with the changing of Congressional sessions, new legislation had to be introduced and now the bills have new names or numbers, making it a bit more confusing than

The future is still uncertain. We need to urge our legislators to support bills like H.R. 412 – Kids Just Want to Ride Act.

usual. For instance, Senate bill 608, the Common Sense in Consumer Product Safety Act of 2009, was removed from the table at the start of the 112th (current) Congressional session. The new reiteration is S. 69 (Common Sense in Consumer Product Safety Act of 2011).

The best option at the moment is the Kids Just Want to Ride Act (H.R. 412). This bill was introduced by Dennis Rehberg (R-MT), who also sponsored H.R. 1510 and 1587.
“I feel pretty confident that we’re on the right side of the issue,” Rehberg in an AMA release. “People say to me, ‘This just lacks common sense — what is going on here?’ This is what gives Congress a bad name… You’re putting our children at risk, and we’re not going to allow you to do that.”

The Act has been referred to the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade. Rep. Bobby Schilling (R-Ill.) is one of 73 cosponsors and called the issue “one of those very simple things to take on.” Getting people angry about the CPSIA has never been the problem. Getting the proper legislation and large amounts of support behind it has been. Fortunately, the Kids Just Want to Ride Act looks to be headed down the right path. After almost three years the mood is one of careful optimism. Yamaha just announced that it is bringing back the TT-R50E and PW50, which is great for kids and a good sign that the big companies have some faith in a future solution.

Details of the Kids OHV Bikes Tested

Basically, the answer is that we still don’t have an answer. The lead limit is now 100 ppm and it’s illegal to sell bikes and parts for kids under 13. However, the law enforcement is postponed along with testing requirements at least until the end of the year, which means we can still get these bikes and ATVs without problem.

We took advantage of this and borrowed some of the bikes that would potentially become illegal, as well as some of the larger bikes that our kids would likely be forced to ride. The idea of ingesting any part of their motorcycles was pretty ridiculous to every kid we’ve talked to, and parents aren’t very concerned about lead either. What they are concerned about is whether or not they’re going to have to find black-market parts to support their favorite family pastime.