common sense…just isn’t

free the tykes! let 'me ride, we sayCycle World editor David Edwards bells the cat with his web preview of May’s editorial on the unintended consequences of the Consumer Products Safety Commission’s ban on lead-containing products used by children.

Meanwhile, offroad star and industry icon Malcolm Smith has scheduled a media event/protest/back at ya for Thursday, March 19, at his dealership to highlight the problem faced by hundreds of dealers and thousands of enthusiasts nationwide as a result of the lead ban.

While no one questions the need to regulate lead content in those products when it could conceivably lead to poisoning, safe to say that some of the language contained in the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 and enacted February 10, 2009, is the sledge hammer used for a flyswatter solution. Effective, but silly in interpretation.

The legislation was a race to react to the revelation of paint containing lead used in toys of mainly Chinese origin and imported into the U.S. due to a) lax oversight and b) greed. Rightly so. Written by folks who, by definition, don’t service minibikes as a livelihood. And who in all probability would not have recognized the potential of lead poisoning by exposure as a result of selling, owning, riding or servicing said product as effectively and demonstrably zero.

Missing were qualifiers that could – and would – be both practical and useful in determining whether that red lead-painted pacifier posed the same potential for harm to three-month old Dakota as that gas powered mini-atv ridden on weekends by nine-year-old Tobias. (That specific lead-based hazard was effectively eliminated when lead as a component of gasoline was outlawed years ago.)

I think government – Federal – regulation of stuff in general is often a good thing. Without it, I imagine a nightmare of state-sponsored toll roads instead of an interstate highway system, where which side of the road you drove on was left to chance. Or maybe where doctors were licensed based on who could print the best looking board certification using the latest copy of Adobe’s Photoshop Lite. Or justification for vaccination of childhood diseases was based on the latest cable-system infomercials.

As for heavy metal poisoning in general, I think back to Minamata, Japan, and the horrendous results of decades of mercury poisoning by the local fertilizer and resin factory that finally came to life a half-century ago, with consequences that continue to this day. Media coverage of that disaster alerted the world to the severe toxicity posed by unregulated industrial contamination of the environment.

So what happened with this latest Exhibit A of the Law of Unintended Consequences? My sense is that lobbyists – yes, those lobbyists who at their worst have saddled us with every kind of plague known to democratic capitalism but at their best are the whistleblowers on the worst blunders of an uninformed and uncaring bureaucracy – just missed the boat when the legislation was drawn up.

At least that’s what I’d like to believe. That had this been brought to light in a timely fashion, appropriate language could have been inserted by reasonable public servants that would have recognized the inaccuracy of broad brush strokes brought to bear on a potential time bomb.

Meanwhile, hope’s on the horizon. A roundtable discussion held March 11 is illustrative of the complex, costly and lengthy dialogue necessary for an agency to pursue after the fact industry exceptions to the law as written.

It may not be quite as simple as saying all youth atvs and minis should be exempted, if we include in the example some of the recent absolute crap built, imported, distributed and sold by who knows whom to suck, er, consumers who want the latest in trendy toys for their tots but who are too cheap to pay for manufacturing quality and integrity.

My takeaway? Another example of any vs. some vs. all. This is why manufacturers and dealers should, and do, support their industry trade organizations. It’s why brand management is, rightly, such a big deal. And it’s why those organizations need to stay constantly focused on the overall picture, big and small. Because the time to deal with these problems is before the train leaves the station. Way before.