Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Chinese Eyes

I was in a hurry to buy a new eye shadow yesterday. I grabbed one from the shelf that seemed to be the right shade. As I was standing in line I read the words "Made in China" on the back. It was returned to the shelf and I had to leave without one. I'd never really looked before and now I wonder how much other stuff made in China I've put on my face. I've nothing against the Chinese but any country that can put poisonous additives in baby formula and kill pets with tainted pet food can most definitely shove mercury/lead etc into my eye shadow!

So then I had to look at all the other cosmetics I buy and I have to report--buy the good brands. All the reputable brands are made in the USA, except for my other favorites like Lancome that actually say Made in France.So no more impulse buys in future without checking the back. (You'll notice they don't put the ingredients on cosmetics!)

All this checking and double checking on all consumer items is becoming annoying. I found some lovely looking salmon the other day then saw that it too came from China. With the polutant levels in those waters I simply can't risk my health.
I've already becoming selective about where my clothes are made. I won't buy anything made in certain Central American countries where girls work in sweatshops. I am somewhat leery about buying from China as one never knows what the conditions might be like for their workers. But it's a difficult choice. If I don't buy that item, will that sweatshop be forced to close, thus leaving those girls with no work at all?

My daughter and son-in-law worked among the poor in Juarez Mexico for three years. Of course this is the site of the maquilas--the factories owned by US companies where US goods are made without any US regulations. My son in law tried to talk to factory managers to try and improve conditions for workers, and you know what those managers said to him?  "If you make things difficult for us, we'll simply close up and go somewhere else."
Which would mean no income at all for those people.

So all these well-meant decisions come at a price--and the knowledge that it's not always an easy matter to make the world right. And I haven't even touched upon the fact that all those Made In China sweaters mean one American garment worker out of a job. In my book For the Love of Mike I depicted the conditions in the sweatshops in New York at the turn of the century and the brave girls who defied odds to form the Ladies Garment Workers Union. That union brought imporoved conditions but also made American goods more expensive.

So the question is--are we prepared to pay more for goods that are made here? I'm trying to adopt the European attitude and buy fewer clothes--but good quality, preferably made in the USA. And I'm definitely going to look carefully at what goes on my face.I think you should too.

1 comment:

  1. Late to the party here, Rhys, but for me, the question is definitely content (as in, the contents of the make-up or of the clothing, etc.). I recently discovered Peter Lamas hair- and skin-care products (, which are absolutely 'clean' and free of harmful chemicals. I agree on the challenge of knowing how to change working conditions such as for the maquiladores or Chinese laborers, when there's a fine balance between greatly-improved incomes for previously poor folk, and exploitation because they work for so much less than so-called 'first world' workers. I don't refuse to buy things made in other countries, but I also keep an eye on whether it is possible to buy locally to support local craftspeople or local industries that are clean/discerning/healthy and well-run. Always a delicate dance . . . .