The Dangers of....Mica?!?!

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Wendy90292

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THIS IS SUPER FREAKY!

I love my mica colors - so pretty. But I happened onto an article online and then fell into an internet rabbit hole and what I learned is that (?!?!?!) most mica is mined in India, often by indigent kids under age 14. There are huge dangers and a high death rate for them! That's horrifying and much worse than using palm oil and hurting orangutans (which I believe I no longer do since I found out). But what makes this even more terrifying is that "most mica contains lead, arsenic and aluminum, all of which can cause harm to humans." Are you KIDDING me?!?!? I don't even use aluminum-based deodorants anymore. But I've been washing myself with these elements since I became a soaper?

Does anyone have any information about this? I'm horrified, just absolutely horrified, on all counts.
 

AliOop

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Not to minimize the horrors of the mining process, but fortunately, the micas used for soaping and cosmetics contain lab-made colors and must meet FDA standards (for US soapers), including the levels of lead, arsenic, and mercury.

What is mica?
 

CpnDouchette

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Not to minimize the horrors of the mining process, but fortunately, the micas used for soaping and cosmetics contain lab-made colors and must meet FDA standards (for US soapers), including the levels of lead, arsenic, and mercury.

What is mica?
I am very new to soaping and micas and was also horrified. I thought that even if lab made, the base mineral was mined and thats the bit that's at risk of child exploitation. I've not researched in depth and generally buy "cruelty free" micas but never really found an answer about lab vs natural pigments
 

Mobjack Bay

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According to Lush, they have removed all natural mica from their products due to the child labor issues highlighted by the OP, as described here

One of the FAQS answered on the Lush page:
How do I know if my cosmetics are made with natural or synthetic mica?

To find out whether the mica in your cosmetics is synthetic or natural look out the following information on your labels.

Natural mica will be listed as ‘Mica’, ‘Potassium Aluminium Silicate’ or ‘CI 77019’ on the quantitative ingredients list, whereas Synthetic mica will be listed as ‘Synthetic Mica’ or ‘Synthetic Fluorphlogopite.’”

This is distressing information for me personally. Looking at the ingredient lists for a haphazard selection of the micas I have on hand, “mica“ is listed in the ingredients for most of them. Only a few list the synthetic mica fluorphlogopite.

ETA: in an investigative piece by NBC news last fall on mica mines in Madagascar, here, the answer to the “what can be done” question focused on responsible sourcing rather than boycotts given the dependence of local communities on mica mining for subsistence. Apparently, micas are used extensively in electronics, cars and industry in general and if they mentioned use of micas by the cosmetics industry at all, I didn’t catch it. The situation has some commonalities with palm issue. As an individual hobby soap maker, I can raise awareness and support/demand responsible sourcing through my purchasing choices.
 
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earlene

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According to Lush, they have removed all natural mica from their products due to the child labor issues highlighted by the OP, as described here

One of the FAQS answered on the Lush page:
How do I know if my cosmetics are made with natural or synthetic mica?

To find out whether the mica in your cosmetics is synthetic or natural look out the following information on your labels.

Natural mica will be listed as ‘Mica’, ‘Potassium Aluminium Silicate’ or ‘CI 77019’ on the quantitative ingredients list, whereas Synthetic mica will be listed as ‘Synthetic Mica’ or ‘Synthetic Fluorphlogopite.’”

This is distressing information for me personally. Looking at the ingredient lists for a haphazard selection of the micas I have on hand, “mica“ is listed in the ingredients for most of them. Only a few list the synthetic mica fluorphlogopite.

ETA: in an investigative piece by NBC news last fall on mica mines in Madagascar, here, the answer to the “what can be done” question focused on responsible sourcing rather than boycotts given the dependence of local communities on mica mining for subsistence. Apparently, micas are used extensively in electronics, cars and industry in general and if they mentioned use of micas by the cosmetics industry at all, I didn’t catch it. The situation has some commonalities with palm issue. As an individual hobby soap maker, I can raise awareness and support/demand responsible sourcing through my purchasing choices.

Well, going forward, you can choose synthetic micas. I would not toss out the ones you already have unless you would really feel badly about using them.
 

Mobjack Bay

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According to the NBC piece, the families are just barely getting enough compensation to survive. They showed one woman and her six small children who spend long days chipping away at small rocks to extract the small pieces of mica because “small fingers are good for collecting the small pieces.” The food allowance for all of them is one cup of rice per day. The advocates for mica workers are not urging a boycott, but rather pressure on industry to source responsibly and to ensure that workers are fairly compensated. Does anyone know if HCSG engages in any lobbying on issues of ethical and environmentally-responsible sourcing? If they do, it would be another reason for me to consider joining.

I probably won’t be tossing the non-synthetic micas I already have, but right now I don’t even want to look at them. I’ve thought about making and selling soap in retirement, but I‘m also starting to realize that I wouldn’t be comfortable selling soap without a fuller understanding of what’s in my product.
 

earlene

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According to the NBC piece, the families are just barely getting enough compensation to survive. They showed one woman and her six small children who spend long days chipping away at small rocks to extract the small pieces of mica because “small fingers are good for collecting the small pieces.” The food allowance for all of them is one cup of rice per day. The advocates for mica workers are not urging a boycott, but rather pressure on industry to source responsibly and to ensure that workers are fairly compensated. Does anyone know if HCSG engages in any lobbying on issues of ethical and environmentally-responsible sourcing? If they do, it would be another reason for me to consider joining.

I probably won’t be tossing the non-synthetic micas I already have, but right now I don’t even want to look at them. I’ve thought about making and selling soap in retirement, but I‘m also starting to realize that I wouldn’t be comfortable selling soap without a fuller understanding of what’s in my product.
HCSG does legislative advocacy, of which you can learn more here, but I don't recall mention of other kinds of lobbying. You could certainly contact one of the staff, or Charlene Simon (president) and express your concerns. Contact the HSCG
 

Jersey Girl

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It’s really a much bigger problem than a colorant in soap and makeup. Here is a quote from an article about the same practice in Madagascar.

“Mica from Madagascar ends up in wires, cables, appliances, the automotive industry, and beyond, according to Terre des Hommes. Approximately 87% of all the mica mined is transported by boat to China, where it is further processed or sent to companies. Roughly 100 importers and exporters – some of them high-profile electronics companies – were identified by researchers, but only 30 were approached for comment. Of those, only two responded, according to Terre des Hommes.”
 

Mobjack Bay

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But wait...does that mean that something artificial is better (in multiple ways) than its natural counterpart? Well how can that be true??
Not necessarily better, but definitely different. I want my decision making to be informed and intentional. I’ve thought through the pros and cons of using palm and industrially-manufactured products. I’ve familiarized myself with the issues associated with mining clays in South America. Until today, I knew nothing about the issues associated with mining micas. In fact, for some reason, I thought all of the micas I use were lab produced synthetics.

eta: I am also fully aware now that there is mined mica all around me, in my car, the electronics in my home, probably the paint on my walls... It would be impossible to buy a car that doesn’t contain mica, but I have a choice when it comes to using mined mica in soap making.
 
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SoapLover1

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I am a Palm Oil Free Soap Maker! That is how I try to make a difference! Micas are synthetically Reproduced without the harmful toxins. I struggled with it but my research found them to be ok along with Titanium Dioxide, in the small amounts used in Soap. Blessings!
 

Fenchurch

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“Mica from Madagascar ends up in wires, cables, appliances, the automotive industry, and beyond, according to Terre des Hommes. Approximately 87% of all the mica mined is transported by boat to China, [...]”
I personaly also have ethical issues with a product that travels more than I do...

I am using Indigo and curcuma for my most recent colours, but... I haven't check yet how the people who grow them are treated... :'(

Stéphanie
 

SoapLover1

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Micas used in Soap Making are not Mined. Im all for making a stand but please be informed of what you are standing for. Blessings!
 

TheGecko

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You might want to check your source and do some research before turning over a soapbox.

To start with "Mica" is a generic term given a group of about 37 'mica' minerals. The most common include purple lepidolite, black biotite, brown phlogopite and clear muscovite.

As of 2020, China (95,000 metric tons) is the largest producer of mica...followed by Finland (65,000), United States (35,000)***, Madagascar (30,000), South Korea (20,000), France (18,000), Canada (18,000), India (15,000) and Turkey (5500). That isn't to say that mica mining in India wasn't an issue...at one time over have of the world's mica came from India, but as seen in my last sentence, a lot as changed over the last 20 years.

Folks really like to hound the 'beauty' industry over crap like this, but the Cosmetics and Personal Care industry is only a small player. Much larger users include Construction, Plastics, Paints, Coatings and Printing Inks, Oil, Automotive and Electronics. And it's not surprising that the Cosmetic industry is such a minor user when you consider that the natural color of mica is grey to brown, so what are more likely to find is synthetic 'mica'.

Yes, raw mica contains lead, arsenic and aluminum, but you can't be so unaware as to believe that you are washing yourself with them? If you want a good freak-out...tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumber, peas, corn, melons and strawberries contain arsenic. So does lettuce, collard greens kale, mustard and turnip greens, beets, turnips, carrots, radishes and and potatoes. Apples, pears and grapes also contain arsenic. And you want to be care to not eat any apple seeds...they contain cyanide.

With all of this said I think we all have a duty to be responsible consumers, but at the same time I've seen first-hand what happens when folks go off the deep end...industries are destroyed, communities become ghost towns.

***Over half of the mica mined in the United States comes from North Carolina.
 

paradisi

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Um, gecko, mica used in cosmetics is either mined or synthetic... ask for the coa from your supplier. And while you're asking, ask for their statement on cruelty-free, slavery-free product.

Tho the *amount* used by all craft soapers is small compared to world industrial use, a craft soaper may thru dint of research find synthetic or ethically produced mica for *100%* of their own usage.

It's no less feasible nor important than organic or any other concern a person has about what they make.
 

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