Mica in Makeup
by Jessica Sbrilli
One of the necessities in everyday life for most women I America is their cosmetics. Putting on their make up is just part of their daily routines, just like taking a shower or brushing their teeth. Most women never really stop to think about how their cosmetics came to be or what exactly went into making them the way they are. This is where the ugly side of the beauty world comes in. Child slave labor is used in many of the facets of the cosmetic industry.
In many eye shadows and other pigment, there is a popular trend of sparkle and shimmer. This is from mica. Mica is a shiny mineral often used to acquire this shimmery quality in cosmetics. “Child labor is involved in the sourcing of mica used in some cosmetics and make-up products,” wrote the Sunday Times in an article published in July.
The mineral supplied to chemicals and cosmetics companies worldwide would be collected in the jungle of Jharkhand state in eastern India, a remote area 700 miles east of New Delhi.
The link between child labor in rural India and the global cosmetics industry had been uncovered in an investigation by the Sunday Times.
Accompanying campaigners from Indian child rights group Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) discovered children as young as six years old working in mica mines in the jungles of Jharkhand.
Children, often working alongside their families, earn as little as 50 rupees a day for collecting the mineral, which is a key ingredient in cosmetics.
Bhuwan Ribhu from BBA said: “it is most disturbing that six-year-old girls are involved in mines to beautify ladies all over the world. More action needs to be taken by cosmetics companies, consumers and governments.” In India, it is illegal for children under the age of fourteen to work in hazardous occupations, including mining.
Some of the mica is bought by the German Based Pharmaceutical firm Merck KGaA, which supplies S Black, a company that sells mica products to British manufacturers including supermarket giant Tesco. Merck also sells directly to the UK supermarket Asda.
Merck confirmed that they were aware of the use of child labor despite contractual obligations from suppliers not to employ children. The company said that further monitoring along the supply chain was very difficult, adding, “especially since these areas are considered not safe.”
Joanna Ewart-James, Anti-Slavery International’s Supply Chain Co-ordinator, said: “It is disappointing that Merck knew about the existence of child labor but appears to have done little to address it. This case demonstrates that contractual requirements not touse forced or child labor are insufficient and offer no guarantee that neither exist in a company’s supply chain.”