Jan. 17, 2011 – Federal lead law revision in the works?

There is new hope that a two-year-long fight to rid the industry of an unintended consequence of a federal law could be coming to a successful end.

An industry official familiar with the continuing battle over the consequences of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) says legislative efforts are being discussed that could ease or altogether take away the impacts of the lead law.

The CPSIA limited the amount of lead allowed in products designed for children 12 years old and younger. While originally aimed at toys originating in China, the federal law wound up also affecting youth-designed powersports vehicles because certain parts, including batteries and valve stems, may contain lead. The law led to a ban in 2009 on youth-designed ATVs and motorcycles that don’t meet the law’s lead requirements.

There was some discussion over the issue last spring in Congress, including a U.S. House hearing. But the issue, which the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) once said could cost the nation $1 billion in lost economic value, remains unsolved.

“The (November) election was a significant development for us,” said Paul Vitrano, general counsel for the MIC and the Specialty Vehicles Institute of America (SVIA). “Now the House is under different leadership and the leadership is more open to revisiting the law than the prior leadership. As a result, there’s going to be some action coming out of the House Energy & Commerce committee we expect early this session.”

Industry players, including the MIC, SVIA and OEMs, are working with other industries affected by the lead law to develop language for a bill. Exactly what that bill could propose is still undetermined, but Vitrano listed a couple of options that could come about:

  • Perhaps the best of all options would be for the law to be amended to state that powersports products do not fall under the lead requirements;
  • A revision to the law that excludes products that contain lead because of its functionality. This exclusion probably would include powersports products but also include other, nonindustry products as well;
  • Redefine the word “accessible” as it’s stated in the law. Currently, Vitrano says, “accessibility means anything you can touch. One of our suggestions is to redefine that to mean only the parts that are touched from the riding position so it would greatly reduce the universe of parts that are subject to the lead content requirements.”
  • Amend the law to change the age range, which currently is 12 years old and under. “If that would move to 7 or under or something of that nature, that will provide some relief to the industry.”

    Regardless of the form it takes, some proposal from the House to amend the CPSIA appears likely, Vitrano said.

    “I’m optimistic that we’re actually going to get relief this session because there seems to be more openness to that as a result of the change in Congress,” he said. “Also on the Senate side that hasn’t changed, there seems to be openness to reform as well. I expect it (a bill) to be generated out of the House, but also to have support in the Senate.” PSB

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