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May 24, 2010 – Legislative remedy to lead law ban taking shape

May 24, 2010
Filed under Features

A prominent industry group is supporting a Congressional effort to ease the lead law’s impact upon the powersports industry and other retail sectors.
The Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) is backing a legislative fix to the law, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), which led to a ban on youth-designed ATVs and motorcycles that don’t meet new lead requirements.
While the legislative effort includes key language that could eventually lead to the exemption of youth-designed ATVs and motorcycles from the lead law’s reach, it is still in draft form and has yet to be formally introduced into Congress.
MIC General Counsel Paul Vitrano voiced the group’s support of the draft legislation during a recent House hearing, repeatedly stressing the industry group’s desire to allow children access to appropriate-sized vehicles. That has clearly been affected by the law, which caused some OEMs to stop selling youth-designed ATVs.
In Vitrano’s comments to a House committee, he outlined the financial impact the law has had on the industry, noting the ban on such vehicles will result in about $1 billion in lost economic value in the retail marketplace annually.
“Congress never intended to ban youth model vehicles when it passed the CPSIA,” Vitrano said in his prepared remarks. “Moreover, CPSC Chairman Tenenbaum and the other commissioners have asked Congress to provide the commission with flexibility to grant exceptions from the lead content provisions, specifically noting the need to address youth ATVs and motorcycles.”
While the draft legislation does not specifically exempt ATVs and motorcycles — as it does with certain used children’s toys — it does contain language that would allow the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to do that. The draft legislation, as provided to Powersports Business in early May, allows the CPSC to exempt product “because it is not practicable or not technologically feasible to manufacture such product by removing the lead” or because the product is not likely to be placed into a child’s mouth, “taking into account normal and foreseeable use and abuse of such product.”
Vitrano noted there is no current timetable on when the draft legislation will be formally introduced and negotiations within Congress on the draft bill continue.
Vitrano also said he does not currently anticipate that a bill coming out of Congress will specifically exempt ATVs and motorcycles. However, if Congress passes the bill as it written now, could the CPSC then move to exempt such youth-designed vehicles from the lead law?
“That’s our expectation,” Vitrano said.
Other testimony at the April 29 House hearing confirmed the lead law has had dramatic impacts on other retail sectors in the United States as well.
Richard Woldenberg, chairman of Learning Resources Inc., said the law has had dire effects on the educational material and educational toy industry. He said the law has resulted in “increased manufacturing costs, eliminated jobs … (and) killed off safe products simply because they are no longer economic to produce. The CPSIA makes cost of compliance unbearable.”
Woldenberg said testing costs have increased eight-fold since before the law was enacted. “Our problems don’t end with testing costs or increased staffing,” he said. “We are being crippled by regulatory complexity.”
Before the law was enacted, he said the educational material and toy industry operated under a 186-page rules document. Today, thanks in part to the CPSIA, that rule book is almost 2,500 pages long.
“And rules keep changing,” he said. “We’re acutely aware that each word in every rule is a potential source of liability now, up to and including jail time.”
Like the motorcycle industry, the apparel and footwear industry also is looking for exemption from the CPSIA. Steve Levy of the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) said the industry he’s a part of has been affected despite the fact that apparel itself is lead-free.
“In 40,000 lab test reports that the (AAFA) group provided to the CPSC, there was no lead in any of the fabric,” he said, “and in less than 5 percent of the reports lead did show up in certain embellishments or accessories.
“Are we as an industry taking steps to eliminate these sources of lead? Absolutely,” Levy said. “Is the amount of lead we’re talking about a threat to public health and safety? Absolutely not.” psb

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