All That Glitters
A few years back, after first moving to Milwaukee, I had the *ahem* honor of working a four month long stint in the retail industry.
I worked at a well known, upscale, women’s clothing store in the mall.
Image was everything for employees. The latest clothes. Perfect make up. Gorgeous hair.
Sephora came and did part of our new associates training so we would all know how to put on a proper face of make up.
One day, my manager came bustling in to the store, her quad-shot coffee in hand as always. She gushed about how she had brightened the baristas day when she ordered her coffee that morning. “Oh girl, I just love that sparkle!” the barista had smiled to my manager.
She seemed genuinely thrilled at her ability to spread joy and good will with the glitter on her eyelids.
Making the world a better place one sparkle at a time.
Except, for many children, these sparkles do not make the world a better place at all. In fact, they make the world quite a horrific place.
Mica is mineral that is widely used for a variety of purposes. For our interests, any of the sparkly, glittery substance found in most cosmetics is the mineral mica. It’s in everything from eyeshadow to lipstick. Mica is a widely distributed mineral with deposits on nearly every continent. India is a huge producer of mica. In fact, the British Geological Survey of 2005 reports that the largest deposits of mica in the world are found in Jharkhand, India.
As with all minerals, mica must be mined for use. This is where the story of this shiny mineral starts to lose its luster.
Every day, there are thousands of children in India who spend their days mining for mica in an attempt to earn a very small amount of pay to help support their families.
A 10-year-old boy from Jharkhand shares part of his story in the mica fields:
“Mica pieces are spread all across the ground so we have to remove the mud and sieve the mica particles. We have to walk three to four kilometers deep into the jungle to find mica. It is very dangerous and many times I have been stung by scorpions whilst digging, and I also get cuts and bruises from sharp stones. Nobody in my family is educated therefore we have no other means of earning money.”
These young children work long hours, receive little to no pay, are placed in dangerous working environments, stung by scorpions, bitten by snakes and unable to attend school…
…all so western women can sparkle.
Bachpan Bachao Andolan is an antislavery organization that has been working in India for over two decades. BBA reports that child mica miners are frequently exposed to dangerous – and sometimes deadly – environments.
“Scavenging in the rocky ground, child miners risk snake and scorpion bites, whilst digging holes they risk being buried alive by collapsing slag piles, they also regularly suffer from cuts and skin infections and the mica dust can cause respiratory diseases such as tuberculosis, bronchitis, silicosis and asthma.”
Be aware of what your daily sparkle is doing in this world.
Our consumer goods in the West are not produced in a vacuum. They have impact. And how we spend our dollars, whether we’re conscious of it or not, is a moral declaration of what we value in this life.
Do your research there are certain brands of cosmetics that have at least some semblance of business ethics. I’ve been impressed with Aveda, Bare Escentuals, and Radiant Cosmetics. In fact, Radiant sends a portion of their profits to fight human trafficking!
Consider using less whether it’s makeup in general, or just trying to avoid some sparkles. Consider decreasing how much you are consuming.
Ask and advocate. Do you just love your Cover Girl eye pallet? Cringe at the thought of giving up your OPI nail polish? E-mail companies and ASK THEM about their supply chains and if they are aware of any child labor being used. If they don’t know, ask them to find out. Express that this matters to you. You have a voice as a consumer, use it to benefit those without voice in the system!
Information on Mica farming and quotes take from BBA.