Youth all-terrain vehicles and dirt bikes will remain parked off showroom floors until local merchants get direction from manufacturers following a ruling Monday that delays enforcement of new lead-law provisions for two years.
"It's not worth getting sued over," said Harry Dodson, sales manager of Champion Honda on Dorchester Road.
Retailers yanked the items and rolled them into storage in February, when new lead limits passed by Congress took effect over concerns that certain parts contain the metal.
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 children who are 12 years and under.
The bill passed Congress in August after a series of toy recalls because of lead paint. It has affected children's clothing, books, toys, recreational vehicles and numerous other items.
The enforcement delay on ATVs and dirt bikes was announced by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. While it appears to give merchants and manufacturers a reprieve until May 2011, local retailers said they won't do anything without permission from suppliers because they don't want to invite a lawsuit.
Suppliers said the commission's decision is not a green light.
"We will go by the direction of the manufacturers of Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki and Bombardier," said Diane Baez of Velocity Powersports, which opened a 25,000-square-foot showroom at U.S. Interstate 26 and College Park Road on Tuesday. "We would not take it upon ourself to sell them."
The motorcycle industry said the brake and clutch levers or the valves on tires could contain small quantities of lead, but that the risk of children ingesting the lead is minimal.
Retailers said the new lead law has hurt sales.
"It's probably affected about 15 percent of our business," said George Merriweather, sales manager for Charleston Power Sports on Dorchester Road. "We get people coming in every day and asking about them. I think they need to repeal the ban."
A coalition representing the powersports industry sought an exemption, saying it thought the exposure risk to lead is low. The federal safety commission denied the petition because it said no data was provided on the content of the actual components in question.
The coalition group issued a statement this week calling the two-year enforcement delay "a temporary stop-gap measure" that is "simply inadequate in legal terms and leaves the industry vulnerable to lawsuits and actions by federal and state agencies."
It said the industry's only remedy is for Congress to specifically exclude youth ATVs, motorcycles and other off-highway vehicles. Two Montana lawmakers, Republican U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg and Democrat Sen. Jon Tester have introduced federal legislation that calls for those exemptions.