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Industry Awaits CPSA Response

Published April 19, 2009

MONTEREY, CA (BRAIN)—It’s a dark day when legislators start designing bicycle products, Bob Burns told attendees at the Bicycle Leadership Conference last week.

Burns said at a recent hearing on Capitol Hill, a metallurgist asked why valves couldn’t simply be made out of titanium instead of brass, which contains lead. The suggestion, which Burns called “absurd and unrealistic,” was made in an attempt to cover the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), which limits lead content for products intended for kids 12 and under.

“Pretty soon we’re going to have to make bicycles out of water,” Burns quipped.

According to Burns, general counsel for Trek Bicycles and head of the BPSA’s legislative committee, the biggest problem for the bicycle industry is the CPSIA requirement limiting total lead content. While the requirement currently stands at 600 parts per million, that limit drops to 300 parts per million in August and Burns suggested that it could go as low as 100 parts per million.

Burns said most Schrader valves contain lead in excess of these requirements. He added that despite suggestions for alternative metals, the industry to date has not been able to source the core inside a valve stem without using brass.

He said the law also affects the industry’s ability to use recycled steel and aluminum in children’s products.

The BPSA filed an exclusion petition January 28, which supplied the CPSA with sound toxicology indicating a child riding a bicycle with recycled materials would ingest less lead than when he or she drinks water from a tap or eats hard candy.

BPSA representatives also pointed out at a public hearing March 11, that if a manufacturer puts a plastic cap over a Schrader valve it’s inaccessible to a child.

BPSA lobbyists also have emphasized that bike resellers such as Dream Bikes, a Trek-sponsored nonprofit in Madison, can’t comply with the new law because all used bikes have brass components. Burns said the group has asked the CPSA, “Did you mean to take bikes away from the least privileged?”

“Nobody wants to be sideways with taking bicycles away from children, and nobody wants to be sideways with taking bicycles away from disadvantaged children,” he said.

He said that same argument applies to mass-market bikes, which will be most affected by the lead content limits. “Lower income families are buying bikes in the mass,” Burns said, adding that it would be helpful to have executives that sell into the mass involved in industry lobbying efforts.

Bikes Belong executive director Tim Blumenthal, who has been lobbying on behalf of the BPSA in Washington, said he has faith in a positive outcome because we have logic and data on our side. However, the ATV industry filed a very similar petition, and the CPSC staff has recommended it be denied.

Burns said the CPSC has yet to make a decision on the bicycle exclusion petition. But based on the ATV example, he said it is likely that the BPSA petition will be denied but the bike industry will also likely get some similar stay of enforcement. “We will get time to clear existing inventory off shelves,” he said.

Until this gets sorted out, Matt Moore, general counsel for Quality Bicycle Products, urged manufacturers to continue to test and evaluate product lines to see if you have any products that would be affected. “Make changes and reformulate, that way in case this all shakes out and we don’t get the relief we need, we won’t be as affected as we might be,” Moore said.

Burns added that it doesn’t make sense to panic or mobilize retailers at this point. “It doesn’t seem like anybody’s about to walk in and take bikes off shelves,” he said.

—Megan Tompkins

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