Editorial: Lead poisoning not only issue in ATV ban

The federal government has an important message for you: Eating your all-terrain vehicle may be hazardous to your health.

Perhaps you already knew this. It doesn’t matter — poorly written federal legislation has taken control of the situation, inadvertently banning the sales of youth ATVs and ATV parts.

The cause of this ban, which seriously affects the livelihoods of likely thousands of motorcycle and off-road vehicle retailers, is the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.

The bill, which passed in 2008 and took effect in February, set across-the-board lead bans in children’s products so low that youth ATVs cannot be sold.

Children apparently cannot be exposed to the lead in an ATV unless they manage to get access to its internal workings, but that doesn’t matter.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission is working to create an exemption for youth ATVs (as they have for some other products affected by the law) while motorcycle and ATV retailers lobby the government for a fix.

It’s remarkable that nobody involved with the passing of this law, sponsored by Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Illinois, apparently realized the unintended consequences of such a broad ban.

Then again, it’s also likely few of the legislators actually read the bill, which is 63 pages long. Not a single congressman voted against it.

According to statistics from the National Center for Environmental Health (part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), the number of children tested in the United States with elevated levels of lead in their blood dropped nearly in half between 1997 and 2001. And this reduction comes after increasing by half a million the number of children tested.

To the extent that lead poisoning remains a public safety hazard for children, the law must be used as a scalpel to remove the actual sources of the danger, not a sledgehammer to destroy products and businesses that do not actually contribute to the problem.