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Industry Rallies to Amend New Lead Law

Published April 5, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C (BRAIN)—Members of the bicycle industry joined a rally on Capitol Hill last week to help urge legislators to amend the Consumer Product Safety Information Act.

One part of the law limits the amount of lead contained in products made for kids ages 12 and under, which impacts everything from used books to bicycles.

Bob Burns, head of the BPSA’s legislative committee and general counsel for Trek, spoke on behalf of the BPSA and Dream Bikes, a Trek-sponsored nonprofit that offers used bikes at a discounted price to neighborhood kids in Madison, Wisconsin.

Programs like Dream Bikes and dozens of others across the country will be in danger if the law stands as it’s written now because some small bike parts contain lead levels higher than the law’s limit.

“Those operations are illegal. It’s just absurd,” Burns said. He said there are several pieces of legislation in the works that would propose amendments to the law.

Tim Blumenthal, executive director of Bikes Belong, Gary Sjoquist, director of government relations for QBP and Pat Cunnane, president of Advanced Sports, Inc., joined Burns on Capital Hill.

A volunteer group called Amend the CPSIA, which formed in March to help fight the law, organized the rally. Other speakers included representatives from charitable organizations, the National Association of Manufacturers, thrift stores and consignment shops, publishers and library associations and motorcycle and ATV dealerships.

That last group potentially has the most to lose as big name suppliers have already stopped manufacturing youth motorcycles and ATVs and have pulled existing inventory from retailers’ shelves.

The day after the April 1 rally, that industry was dealt a huge blow when the Consumer Product Safety Commission staff recommended the Commission deny an exemption for youth off-road motorcycles and ATVs from the law citing high lead levels in battery terminals and brake levers.

The Commission has not responded yet to a petition for exemption from the bicycle industry and Burns said he doesn’t have an indication of a potential timeline for that or whether the staff’s recommendation for the motorcycle industry could impact the bicycle business.

“I’m speculating, but they may be planning to deny the ATV petition and grant the bike petition because bikes don’t have a lead acid battery. That’s where they may draw the distinction,” Burns said.

In the mean time, many bicycle suppliers are abiding by the Commission’s enforcement policy for lead limits that allows manufacturers to determine whether a part containing lead is accessible to a child.

The components in children’s bikes that contain lead are small parts like valve stems, which are typically capped.

“To my knowledge, no retailers have stopped selling juvenile bikes,” said John Nedeau, president of the BPSA, said recently. “We still feel strongly that bikes comply based on the way we interpret the law to read.”

Also, last week, Commissioner Nancy Nord, a George W. Bush appointee, sent President Barack Obama a letter asking him to appoint a new CPSC chair to deal with the fallout from the new law. One of the three commission seats has been vacant for three years.

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