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CPSC To Delay Anti-Lead Law Enforcement

Consumer Product Safety Commission plans to delay enforcement of a new anti-lead law that has kept all-terrain vehicles and dirt bikes designed for children off showroom floors.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Motorcycle shops should soon be able to sell youth ATVs and motorbikes again, at least temporarily.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission said Friday that it plans to delay enforcement of a new anti-lead law that has kept all-terrain vehicles and dirt bikes designed for children off showroom floors -- not because of concerns over safety, but because some bike parts contain lead.

The agency's two commissioners cast votes expressing their support for the enforcement stay.

It's not clear how long enforcement of the law would be delayed for the industry. Acting CPSC chair Nancy Nord has suggested a year.

Staffers will now need to hammer out the formal details of the plan before dealers would be permitted to start selling again.

Key support for the delay came from Commissioner Thomas H. Moore.

In a statement, Moore cited his concern that parents of children wanting the youth motorbikes might instead opt to buy bigger, adult ATVs for their youngsters to ride -- machines that aren't built for children and can cause them serious harm.

"The commission simply cannot ignore the safety trade-offs that could arise by not providing this relief," said Moore.

The new law, called the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, was intended to keep lead away from young children by banning the metal, except in small amounts, from products for kids 12 years and under. Lead can cause irreversible learning disabilities and behavioral problems. The bill passed Congress last year after a series of toy recalls because of lead paint.

When the new lead limits took effect in February, most motorbike sellers of youth models pulled their inventory and stopped selling the machines.

The temporary stay would allow the commission to develop a plan that gives the industry time to produce youth bikes with parts that don't have excessive levels of lead. The delay would also allow CPSC to work with manufacturers to decide whether it's possible for all parts of the motorbikes to fall below the lead limits, Moore said.

The CPSC's Nord had previously announced her support for a delay. Nord had signaled that she wanted to give the industry a full exemption from the law, but said it was written in such a way that it offered her little flexibility to do so. Nord and Moore both denied the industry's request for a full exemption.

The motorcycle industry says some bike parts, such as brake and clutch levers or the valve stems on tires, can contain small quantities of lead, but the risk of children ingesting the lead is minimal. A recent CPSC staff report said the risk of exposure to lead from dirt bikes and ATVs is relatively low.

But others are more suspect of the potential for harm.

Dr. Helen Binns says there needs to be a barrier between the child and the lead, something akin to a plastic cover or foam padding over the lead-made parts that a child could touch.

"When you touch objects that contain lead, it can be transferred to the hands," said Binns, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Environmental Health. "The lead can then be transferred to food or when you put your hands to your mouth."

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