Congress to review 'Lead Law'

The existing "Lead Law" restricts sales of kid-size motorcycles like this one. Getty

Under current law it's technically illegal for motorcycle dealers to sell kid-sized bikes and ATVs. This news is familiar to anyone who has been following the "Lead Law" story that is now more than two years old. According to a press release issued by the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC), on February 17, the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade will hold a hearing to review the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), which unintentionally created this ban on youth off-road vehicles.

The CPSIA, passed on August 14, 2008, went into effect February 10, 2009. Its original intent was to protect children from dangerous lead levels found in toys but the broad language used in the bill also engulfed seemingly innocuous items like books, clothes, motorcycles and ATVs. The effect on the motorcycle industry would have been devastating if it were not for an enforcement stay that has been extended yet again, this time to December 31, 2011. This stay allows dealers to keep youth motorcycles (50cc through 85cc) on their showroom floors.

But the larger problem of getting the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to rewrite the law remains. When the law was passed in 2008, the allowable amount of lead was 600 parts per million. That threshold will drop to 100 parts per million, the lowest level that is technologically feasible, after August 14, 2011. In motorcycles, traces of lead can be found in brake calipers and batteries. The CPSC is aware that the risk of exposure from motorcycles and ATVs is low but said the way the law was written is strict and motorcycles shouldn't be exempt from the law.

The motorcycle industry has rallied with the help of the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), the MIC, MX Sports, the manufacturers and more. They now have the attention of Congress. On Jan. 25, U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) introduced H.R. 412, the Kids Just Want to Ride Act, a bi-partisan bill which would exempt kids' off-highway vehicles from the CPSIA. "The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act is an important law with many provisions that help protect our children against toys with lead they may put in their mouth or ingest," said Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), who is among those who recently signed on to support H.R. 412. "However, the law did not create a necessary exemption for youth-model motorcycles and ATVs, which do contain some lead in the engines and battery compartments and which children are highly unlikely to put in their mouths. This small change to the law will help ensure youth-model motorcycles and ATVs are not pulled from the shelves and remain available to the parents of children who wish to ride appropriately sized vehicles designed just for them that already meet government safety guidelines," Ross said.

If a permanent exemption doesn't come, there are concerns about the possible increases in injuries and death resulting from children jumping to bigger motorcycles and ATVs too soon.

Individuals who want to take action have many options. Visit the "Stop The Ban Now" website where the MIC has quick links to help readers send messages to their member of Congress. There are also videos by several professional motorcycle athletes, including freestyle rider, Robbie Maddison. Another important resource is the American Motorcyclist Association. Look under their "Rights" section to take action.