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Mica Mining Exposes Child Labor In Make-Up Industry

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Mica linked to child labor is littered throughout the cosmetics industry — taking up residency in everything from high-end eye shadows palettes to drugstore lipsticks. Listed as ‘mica,’ ‘potassium aluminium silicate,’ and ‘CI 77019,’ on ingredient lists, it’s what gives body lotion or eye cream a light glow, makes toothpaste look extra bright, or provides BB cream with a subtle radiance. Unlike chunky glitter often made from plastic, mica’s delicate shimmer is one of the pillars of modern makeup — and 60% of the high-quality mica that goes into cosmetics comes from India, mostly from neighboring regions of Bihar and Jharkhand, where child mining and worker exploitation is the norm.

The raw material excavated by child labor will be collected by a broker who sells it to an exporter, who then delivers it to a manufacturer, typically in China. It’s then milled into fine, pearly pigment that is purchased by international beauty companies to add a reflective finish to eye shadow, blush, lipstick, and more. Everyone in the supply chain financially benefits from obscuring the origin of the mica through this complicated turn of hands, because it keeps costs low by allowing exporters to exploit the people mining it.

While some cosmetics companies look the other way after getting a killer deal on the natural pigment, the solution for brands who don’t want to be associated with child labor isn’t as simple as pulling out of India completely.

During R29’s investigation, we came upon mines in Jharkhand with children working who were as young as five years old. Most reported that they didn’t go to school and had been working in mines for as long as they could remember. None of them knew where the mica ended up, but everyone knew the dangers.

Breathing in the dust in mica mines can cause infections, disease, and permanent damage to lungs, but there’s a much more catastrophic risk that worries locals most — and one the Kumari family suffered firsthand. Surma Kumari, 11, and her sister Lakmi, 14, were working in a mine when it began to crumble. When they tried to run, Surma got stuck under a rock and Lakmi was buried under a mountain of debris. Their mother and father were in the village when they heard there had been an accident, but by the time they got to the mine, Lakmi had died. “We couldn’t get her out for an hour,” says Surma, her surviving sister.


Full article and video at source:



I am horrified. I might have used toothpaste, body lotion, or moisturizer that uses this stuff and didn't know what happened behind it all. I will take a look on the back of these bottles and tubes for either ‘mica,’ ‘potassium aluminium silicate,’ and ‘CI 77019,’ on the ingredients list. And will stop buying it in the future. :diane:

How about you? Are you sure you are free from guilt?

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It’s almost impossible on a daily basis to wear, use, eat one thing without somewhere along the chain being completely unethical but also important things like this are exposed so some difference can be made.

Lush, whilst expensive is imo one of best brands to buy from cosmetic /beauty wise. Vegan / vegetarian, cruelty free, environmentally conscious across all areas of manufacturing, packaging, transportation and recycling, ethically sourced and workers are paid fairly, If conditions are poor or child labour at the source is found they cut ties untill it’s resolved, anti slavery and human trafficking policy. The list goes on...

Edited by Zander
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I understand that consumers have a choice to boycott certain products and advocate for better things, but why should we be fully responsible for this? It's getting harder to have a "guilt-free" lifestyle.

I try to avoid palm oil, but it's almost everywhere. I try to avoid mica, but it's almost everywhere. You get the point. 

I wish more companies are held to better standards, and doesn't cut corners when it comes to labour work. Pay the parents better so children can go to school. 

I fell down the stairs once as an actor.
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