I would assume it means the beads contain lead below the level
considered hazardous. Under U.S. law, that is 600 parts per million
for children’s jewelry currently, and 300 ppm beginning Aug. 14,
2009. (That’s for the entire piece of jewelry, not just a component.)
There is no federal standard for adult jewelry, but several states
(Calif., Ill., and a few others) have or soon will have such
Except under the most rigorous lab conditions, there is no such
thing as “lead-free.” Lead is everywhere in the environment in at
least trace amounts, including in the chocolate chip cookie I plan to
eat this afternoon.
I’m obliged to add this caveat: If the lead level is important to
your friend, he/she should ask the supplier exactly what "lead safe"
means. If it’s a foreign manufacturer, the level may be much higher
than 600 ppm.
And if it’s Chinese, God only knows what’s really in it.
FYI: The Fashion Jewelry Trade Association (fjta.org) and Swarovski
are fighting for an exemption for crystal from the testing
requirement of the new lead law. Their argument: Although crystal
may contain as much as 30 percent lead, that lead is locked into the
chemical structure of the material and would not be absorbed in
harmful amounts by a child who touched or even swallowed a crystal.
Director of Communications
Manufacturing Jewelers & Suppliers of America