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 delay. Staffers will now need to hammer out the formal details, which could go into effect in the next couple of weeks and would remain until May 2011.

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 limit 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 more 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 acting chair Nancy 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 in her statement that “the law contains extremely restrictive language concerning an exclusion for these petitioners.”

Nord and Moore both denied the industry’s exemption request.

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.”

The industry has countered those concerns, saying kids aren’t typically licking the engine parts of an ATV.

The Motorcycle Industry Council and other groups said they were disappointed the agency didn’t grant the exemption.

“With today’s vote, it is now obvious that the only permanent solution is for Congress to end the ban once and for all by amending the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) so parents once again have access to appropriate-sized youth-model ATVs and motorcycles for their children,” their statement said.

GOP Rep. Denny Rehberg of Montana has introduced a bill in Congress that would exempt youth dirt bikes and ATVs. Similar legislation in the Senate was introduced by Montana Democrat Jon Tester.

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