CPSIA: Powersports, crystals, and stranded inventories

With large inventories of kid-sized motorbikes, mini-ATVs, and similar products rendered worthless and unsalable under tarps or in back storage rooms, the Motorcycle Industry Council now estimates that the economic damage from the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act in its sector of the economy alone could reach $1 billion in 2009 if Congress does not act to restore the products’ legality. Joe Delmont at DealerNews has more information on how that figure was arrived at. Two weeks ago we cited an estimate that the frozen inventory alone exceeds $100 million in value; the larger figure adds in the cost of payroll and insurance at dealerships while they wait for the ban to be lifted, lost service and accessory sales, and so forth. It apparently does not count harms to tourism and recreation sectors in parts of the country that draw a family vacation trade based on use of the vehicles (see, e.g., ShareTrails.org, Americans for Responsible Recreational Access). Since the vehicles are intended for outdoor use, the weeks leading up to and including spring — in other words, now — are ordinarily their prime selling season. Some recent coverage previously unlinked: Chico, Calif., Enterprise-Record, WDAY Fargo, N.D., Orlando, Fla. Local6, WCTV Tallahassee, Fla., Gloversville, N.Y. Leader-Herald, Kingsport, Tenn. Times-News. Forums: cpsia-central, VitalMX, Motorcycle Addicts, and many more.


The minibikes fall into a category of products for which the drafters of CPSIA made it particularly hard to obtain exemptions, namely products that concededly do contain a more than infinitesimal quantity of lead in a normal and accessible component. Yesterday, the CPSC published (PDF) its proposed rule on the subject. In it, the commission staff explain the stringent legal requirements governing such waivers, and why they often do not allow the commission to grant “common sense” waivers even where risks of harm are very low and costs of regulation are very high (pp. 7 et seq of the document, which fall on pp. 9 et seq of the PDF). In other words, the minibike dealers are out of luck unless they can convince (or persuade Congress to take the issue away from) the implacable Henry Waxman, who in turn tends to take his cue on these matters from Public Citizen and that group’s allies.

The powersports dealers aren’t the only ones stranded. At The Smart Mama, lawyer/lead testing consultant Jennifer Taggart ponders what might amount to “the end of bling” in kids’ wear. Genuine crystals by definition include lead, as do many rhinestones, although cheaper plastic imitations will more often be free of it. Trade groups have petitioned for an exemption, but given the law’s stringency (calling for the submission of peer-reviewed data, for example) it is far from clear that the commission can grant their requests. It will be easy in some quarters to dismiss the whole matter with a wave: who cares about mere embellishments, anyway?
It’s not so easy to be dismissive if you’re, say, a teacher of Irish step dancing, with a stock of performance dresses in youth sizes (quite possibly with crystals, rhinestones or sequins, since nothing picks up stage lights the way they do). That stock of costumes, which might even be your most costly asset, by law at least may now occupy the same frozen contraband category as those tarped-over new youth minibikes at the sports dealer’s. As message-boarder “GailV” put it, “The dresses are worn for about 15 minutes at a time, the possibly lead-containing parts never touch the child, but it’s still illegal.” For more on the dismay CPSIA has struck into the Irish dance apparel community, see Irish Dance Moms, Fashion Incubator Forums, and Voy Forums comments here, here, and here (“Heidi”: “Most of us would like to be successful and running legitimate (law abiding) businesses. I want to grow my business, not hide in the shadows looking for ways to circumvent the law. Besides, the jealous world of Irish dance is full of potential whistle blowers.”)

More: In comments, Jennifer Taggart reports more distress in the bling sector.


  • This is going to have quite an impact on the Child Beauty Queen industry. How many of them can compete without crystals, rhinestones or sequins?

  • I don’t know much about the world of jealous Irish Dancers, but I can say that the bling industry is hard pressed. With CPSC General Counsel Falvey’s denial of the emergency request for a crystal exemption, retailers are looking to return non compliant inventory. Have one small manufacturer that got a call from a retailer looking to return $50,000 of crystal bedecked bling children’s t-shirts – a hit that this small manufacturer cannot afford. Is bling a potential exposure? That I don’t know. It seems it would depend on whether the crystals are likely to be ingested, which probably depends on the application. Not sure crystal bedecked t-shirts intended for 7 to 10 year olds are a likely source.

    Jennifer Taggart

  • I have a suggestion for all the library books, products and inventory made unusable and unsaleable by CPSIA: a modern day Boston Tea Party. Libraries, don’t throw away your pre-1985 children’s books. Thrift stores and crafters, don’t dispose of your inventories. Bring them all down to Washington DC and deposit them on the steps of the U.S. Capitol building. I’m sure that Congress, in its wisdom, will think of a way to handle these dangerous goods.

  • Why don’t the children just dress in home-spun brown and grey fabric with a few natural leaves woven into their hair – just like they did before we had all these garish(and dangerous) colors. Then they can really understand what it means to be “green”…

  • Jennifer have you had a chance to read the rhinestone/crystal petition sent to the CPSC by the trade groups? Click my name for the link.

    The tests they cite claim that even if ingested, the amount of lead absorbed into the body is less than the amount absorbed with common food items. They also claim that due to the chemical makeup of crystal, the amount of lead that can leach is a fraction of that which leaches from items that meet the 600 ppm and 300 ppm requirements.

  • What of children’s books published before 1985 that reside in elementary & middle schools libraries, municipal public libraries or the Library of Congress for that matter.

    Opponents of this law should file class action lawsuits against libraries to demonstrate the ill-considered idiocy of this legislation!

  • Our store doesn’t have much bling inventory but we are stuck with now “hazardous waste” in the name of children’s shirts with rhinestones we can’t sell, give away, or donate. Our manufacturers won’t take them back (“they were made before the law went into effect”) and we have to dump them. Yes, it’s a business loss but one that is very hard to swallow, oh, excuse the pun!

  • Around the web, February 27…

    Voices of moderation, trial lawyer dept.: Atlanta tort attorney likens Georgia state damages caps to steps taken by Russia’s Putin to curb trials of “crimes against state” [Ken Shigley] Prosecution of W.R. Grace execs in wake of environmental offen…

  • […] was obliged to turn down the makers of kids’ minibikes in their plea for an exemption the other day. Same for many other instances that could be cited, such as the pre-1985 books and the size 10 […]

  • […] Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (office of local Congressman Mike Doyle, D-Pa., says most members think, dubiously, that ban “can be fixed without new legislation”); Lebanon, Pa. […]

  • If the identified danger is a crystal falling off a costume and making its way into the mouth of a child, then we need to get ready for the consumer groups next target: all consumer products. Because what it the difference between the offending bling falling from a infrequently worn stage item and mommy’s sparkly tee-shirt?

    We can’t legislate away all risk.

  • […] Safety Improvement Act, on which we’ve written but which Walter Olson and others have covered much more effectively, was drafted with the intention that no American children die of lead poisoning.  The havoc […]

  • Jen brings up a good point–if we are trying to make this country lead-free for our kids, we can’t just draw the line at children items. Anything can be a child’s item. My 9 month old was chewing on MY button while in his baby carrier. According to CPSIA a child’s button has to be tested, but the likelyhood that he/she can even get it into his/her own mouth is less likely than a decal on my own shirt. What about the coffee table, that is one of his favorite things to lick. Or the plastic hanger that he found and licked a few times. My cell phone has been covered in slobber from all 3 kids, but these aren’t tested. The list could go on…Did I lose sleep over his potential lead poisoning from an untested button on an adult shirt, or the untested plastic hanger? No, but maybe according to Congress I should take him and have his levels checked. Seriously, this well-intended law has been taken WAY too far.

  • […] will recall, the minibike/powersports industry projects that the ban on its youth products will cost $1 billion by year’s end. That’s $3 billion right there, representing only two of the many industries hit by the act; […]