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Botox break-ins: why are thefts of the beauty drug on the rise?

A wave of United States Botox centers have actually reported burglaries and the theft of cosmetic items worth thousands

T he polices in Sugar Land, Texas, categorized case number 19-4317 as a “service break-in”, however that label barely does it justice. Caught on security video , the scene unfolds like a cross in between Desperate Housewives and a low-budget break-in film: a blonde female in black yoga trousers and a pink leading bring up to a strip-mall medical health spa in a Mercedes SUV, cuts a hole in the day spa’s glass door with a cordless saw, slips within, and jogs away with 2 bulging purse presumably consisting of $7,000 worth of anti-ageing items, the majority of it Botox.

“I believed it would be a huge, big man tossing a brick through the front window,” states Alonzo Perez, the owner of BotoxRN, the burgled health club. “But this was somebody 5ft and 100lb.” That was on 23 August. 6 days later on, a suspect who seemed the exact same lady sawed her method into another BotoxRN medical spa simply up the I-69 in Houston.

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For Perez, it was remembrance: great deals of damaged glass and another $7,000 stock loss. “There were iPads and laptop computers in the workplace however they weren’t touched,” he states. “This lady had a really particular goal.” Perez includes that variations of this criminal offense have actually ended up being significantly popular in the location. “Yesterday 2 Houston medical medspas called me and stated something like this had actually occurred to them in broad daytime: individuals asked to utilize the washroom, roamed in back, discovered the Botox, and took it.”

The Houston Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery center was likewise targeted in August: after getting about $2,000 worth of Botox and filler injections, a client breezed past the front desk without paying. The name and contact details she supplied may have been phony, however her medical pictures (prior to and after shots are guideline in Botox centers) were genuine. “This woman gets the Darwin award,” states Dr Clayton Molivar, the cosmetic surgeon who administered the treatments and later on published the pictures to social networks, assisting to recognize the lady. “I do not wish to see her go to prison, however possibly she must use an orange match every Saturday and get trash.”

These capers aren’t distinct to Houston. Media outlets throughout the nation have actually covered real criminal activity stories including droll headings about “ Botox outlaws ” in Los Angeles and “ face-filler scammers ” in Washington. This larceny isn’t gender particular, either. In January, 2 males pulled a hit-and-run task at a Los Angeles Botox day spa after acquiring $4,000 in services. Nor is the crimewave restricted to the United States. In Britain in February, 4 guys robbed a storage facility in Witham, Essex, and swiped a big cache of Azzalure, a botulinum contaminant drug comparable to Botox. It was, in criminal terminology, a huge rating; cops approximated the delivery’s worth at 6 figures .

Why do individuals take Botox? Since it’s pricey. The drug’s producer, Allergan, offers 100 systems– a vial that suits the palm of a kid’s hand– for $601. And, as every Kardashian understands, 100 Botox systems do not go far. After zapping forehead wrinkles (20 systems), crow’s feet (40 systems), “bunny lines” around the nose (10 systems), and those “mad 11s” in between the eyebrows (30 systems), there’s absolutely nothing left for jawline sculpting (that’s another 15 to 50 systems– on each side of the face). A single Botox treatment varies from $300 to $1,200, depending upon just how much serum is needed and who injects it.

According to the American Society For Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, Botox is without a doubt the most asked for visual treatment, with more than 1.8 m of them carried out in 2015, amounting to over $1bn in sales.

According to Dr Jose Rodriguez-Feliz, a cosmetic surgeon in Coral Gables, Florida, when burglars make a grab for numerous vials at a time from storage facilities, they are typically cost a high discount rate to individuals using injections without medical licenses: “There’s a substantial black market for Botox and fillers in south Florida since they remain in high need and extremely costly. Everybody in Miami understands a location where an unlicensed dental practitioner is dealing with clients in his garage with Botox injections.”

This year in Shasta county, California, Susan Ann Tancreto was charged with 8 felony counts, including unlicensed practice of medication, trouble, carrying an illegal drug, and battery with severe physical injury. Impersonating a nurse at a spa, Tancreto presumably injected her victims with Botox and fillers that left a few of them, according to the DA’s workplace, with “substantial facial defects”. She has actually pleaded innocent.

Dr Louis Malcmacher, the president of the American Academy of Facial Aesthetics , concurs there’s a flourishing underground network of dubious Botox companies around the nation, however he fears the issue is even worse than professionals declare it is. “I believe a great deal of this medical spa theft is individuals who are self-injecting,” he states. “There are nurses and physicians on YouTube who regularly inject themselves. Customers get the concept that this is really simple: I might do this on myself. All I need to do is view the videos.”

Although they might include disclaimers that they aren’t to be utilized as tutorials, YouTube videos tape-recorded by doctor looking for to broaden their brand names and produce likes program simply how basic these non-surgical treatments are.

A 2018 research study released in the journal Plastic Surgery, entitled Saving Face: An Online Study of the Injecting Use of DIY Botox and Dermal Filler Kits, concluded that inexperienced DIY injectors were undeterred by health dangers, inspired in part by price, which online forums and guideline videos had actually improved their self-confidence.

Dana Berkowitz, the author of Botox Nation: Changing the Face of America, makes no difference in between the opioid addict and the Botox outlaw: “I’m not amazed by these criminal activities due to the fact that Botox is truly an illness.” Her tone is sober and determined, like she’s providing a cosmetic surgeon basic caution to the general public. “Once individuals begin seeing the lines come back, they worry.” Having actually utilized Botox herself, Berkowitz understands the power of this drug. “Patients have actually explained Botox to me as a dependency,” she states. “It’s likewise an entrance drug to other cosmetic treatments like dermal fillers.”

Has she seen the Sugar Land security video, the one Inside Edition tagged “Soccer Mom Gone Wild?”: Botox Bandit Strikes Again?

“Yes,” she addresses earnestly, as if thewoman holding the grinding saw is her sibling, and she will not state anything that will betray her trust.

“I do not excuse these criminal activities, however I do comprehend the intention,” Berkowitz states. “This female is being informed we need to do whatever in our power to fight the beginning of aging, and the majority of people can’t manage to do it. This becomes part of a bigger social issue.”

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Rape culture is as American as apple pie | Arwa Mahdawi

We reside in a society in which sexual violence is so stabilized that a person in 16 females lost their virginity through rape

Sign up for The week in patriarchy, a newsletter on feminism and sexism sent out every Saturday.

Our culture teaches individuals not to be raped

One in 16 American females were required or persuaded into their very first sexual experience, according to a troubling brand-new research study released in Jama Internal Medicine . Let’s not mince words: that’s rape. More than 3 million American females, this recommends, lost their virginity since they were raped.

Where do these numbers originated from? Well, the research study evaluated actions from over 13,000 ladies aged in between 18 and 44 who took part in the 2011-2017 National Survey of Family Growth, a nationally representative United States federal government health study. The study asked: “Would you state that this very first vaginal sexual intercourse [with a male] was not voluntary or voluntary, that is, did you select to make love of your own free choice or not?” If females reacted “not voluntary”, the scientists classified them as having actually experienced “required sexual initiation”.

Nearly three-quarters of females who experienced required sexual initiation were under 18 at the time, according to the research study. Females whose very first experience of sex was rape were likewise less most likely to be white and most likely to have earnings listed below the poverty line. Unsurprisingly, scientists likewise discovered that required sexual initiation seems connected with psychological and physical health issue later on in life.

There’s been a great deal of handwringing recently over whether #MeToo has actually gone too far. This research study ought to be a visceral pointer that #MeToo hasn’t gone almost far enough. Rape culture is endemic in America; as one sex education professional informed the Associated Press in recommendation to the report, “Our culture teaches individuals not to be raped rather of mentor individuals not to rape.”If you desire to see how deeply rooted rape culture is simply take an appearance at who is running the nation and forming the law, #peeee

. A 3rd of the 6 male justices on America’s supreme court have actually been implicated of sexual misbehavior . Lawyer General William Barr backed a 2017 book called Campus Rape Frenzy , which basically argues guys are the genuine victims of sexual attack in universities.” [T] he incorrect story of a ‘rape culture’ on college schools– has actually produced a program of kangaroo justice,” Barr composed in a blurb for the book. “Your blood will boil as the authors thoroughly analyze ratings of cases where, in the name of political accuracy, male trainees are compromised to the mob.”

And, naturally, there’s the happy pussy-grabber who is presently president of the United States. Donald Trump, let’s simply take a minute to keep in mind, was credibly implicated of rape simply a couple of months ago . The allegations made headings for a couple of days and after that all of us stopped speaking about it. Obviously, that’s how numb we have actually ended up being to the truth that a sexual predator is the most effective guy worldwide. That’s how numb we’ve ended up being to a society in which sexual violence is so stabilized that a person in 16 females lost their virginity through rape.

Women are getting surgical treatment to repair their resting bitch face

“Although the term RBF got in the cultural lexicon about 6 years earlier, ask for the treatment ‘more than doubled’ over the in 2015,” one cosmetic surgeon informed the New York Post . News which needs to most likely offer you active rage face.

Rise in ladies attempting to self-induce abortions

As abortion constraints tighten up in the United States, a brand-new report from Guttmacher recommends more females are relying on DIY abortions. According to NPR , “the company’s newest study on abortion rates, from 2017, discovered that 18% of nonhospital centers stated they had actually dealt with a minimum of someone for a tried self-induced abortion, up from 12% when the information were last gathered, in 2014”.

The not-so-naked aspiration of Succession’s ladies

The 2nd season of Succession, the exceptionally bingeable HBO drama, is “ending up being a complex representation of what female power appears like in an organisation world ruled nearly totally by guys,” composes Emily Peck at HuffPo . Not just does it “quickly pass the Bechdel test”, the females in Succession keep their package on. “We’re not thinking about having individuals take their clothing off, especially ladies,” among the program’s authors informed the Ringer .

Ten ladies implicate Disney of systemic gender discrimination

Let’s hope there’s a fairy tale ending to this claim and Disney begins treating its female staff members relatively.

‘Feminist emergency situation’ presentations in Spain

Women required to the streets of Spain on Friday to state a “feminist emergency situation” after a summer season which saw a spike in gender-based violence.

Teen TikTok tampon technique

Teenage ladies on the social media TikTok are punking men into believing they consume their utilized tampons to reabsorb the blood. “It it appears a great deal of young boys on the app can’t rather exercise if it’s real or not,” BuzzFeed reports .

Mark Ronson ‘comes out’ as a sapiosexual

He made this memorable statement on Good Morning Britain . I believe author Shon Faye summed this entire thing up quite well when she tweeted : “Mark Ronson is sapiosexual which indicates he’s drawn in to individuals for their intelligence. Which is cool. And I’m grateful he’s discovered a lot of gorgeous females under 35 whose intelligence he’s drawn in to.”

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‘What they put on the fields contaminates our water’: Iowa’s pollution problem | Anna Jones

Decades of adding fertilisers and manure to drive Iowas crop production has loaded the land with nutrients that are ending up in the water supply

Brent Bierbaum climbs into the ditch running alongside one of his corn fields and dips a nitrate testing strip into the water. He checks the strip: the reading is somewhere between 10 and 20 parts per million. It confirms the water running off this field contains nitrates at levels that would be unsafe, and illegal, in drinking water.

Brent, whose family have been farming in this part of south-west Iowa for five generations, never used to worry about the runoff from his fields. On a hot day, cutting thistles in the corn fields, hed go down to the creek and drink straight from the tile line the water coming off the fields. Cold, clean its the best water around, he says.

Things changed when his local town, Griswold, started having problems with their drinking water. Nitrates are a soluble form of nitrogen that is added to fields as synthetic fertiliser and animal manure; nitrates from Brents fields, and other neighbouring farms, were making their way into the towns wells. Nitrate from farmland in Iowa is already a major contributor to the chemicals making their way to the Gulf of Mexico via the Mississippi river, suffocating marine life in the dead zone. Suddenly what had been a distant problem, more than a thousand miles away, was on the doorstep, threatening the health of friends and neighbours.

Oh my gosh, he says. We all have friends who drink the water in town; we drink the water in town, so we all had an interest in it.

Like most small towns in rural Iowa, Griswold is surrounded by vast fields of corn and soya bean. Giant grain silos glinting in the spring sunshine are all that punctuate the landscape for miles around.

Iowas world-famous soils are packed with nitrogen a gift from nature that allowed commercial agriculture to take root here but decades of adding synthetic fertilisers and animal manure to drive production has loaded the land with nutrients it cant hold on to. Crop production in Iowa is still the main source, but animal manure from the states 20 million pigs has contributed to the problem.

Brent Bierbaum tests the water in a ditch alongside one of his familys fields. Photograph: Anna Jones/The Guardian

The legal limit for nitrates in drinking water in the US is 10 parts per million, equivalent to 10mg per litre. It was introduced in 1962 to guard against blue baby syndrome, a potentially fatal condition affecting newborn babies and infants under one year old. Its caused by nitrates starving the body of oxygen, literally turning babies blue.

Three public wells, fed by an underground aquifer, provide drinking water for Griswolds 1,000 residents. Between 2012 and 2019, according to Griswold City Council, a single well recorded 21 incidents over 9mg/l and four incidents over 10mg/l. Another recorded 18 incidents over 9mg/l.

Studies by the National Cancer Institute found that drinking water with an average level of 5mg/l of nitrate, over a long period of time, may increase the risk of certain cancers. Other studies have linked nitrate intake above 5mg/l with birth defects in babies.

Julie Adams, one of Griswolds busy city councillors, took it upon herself to knock on doors and ring around new mothers and daycare nurseries, warning them of the risks: I tell them, If you have small babies do not use the tap water when youre making formula. Use bottled water. Just to be safe.

The dead zone

The problem is that nitrates are on the move, and in higher volumes than ever before. Iowa is 90% farmland and exports more nitrate and phosphorus to the Gulf of Mexico than any other US state, killing marine life there.

Its not an isolated problem. A report from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) revealed that, across the US, 1,700 municipal water utilities most of them rural regularly have nitrates above the 5mg/l safe limit. Worryingly, 120 public waterworks breach the 10mg/l legal limit. On top of that, Iowa has up to 290,000 private wells, many on remote farms like Brents, which are not required by law to be tested.

The state of Griswolds wells set alarm bells ringing at Iowas Department of Natural Resources, which oversees water quality. They called a meeting and delivered a sobering ultimatum either bring nitrate levels down or the council would be ordered to spend $1m on a nitrate removal facility. It would wipe out a third of Griswolds $3m annual budget.

Councillor Julie Adams at her home. Photograph: Anna Jones/The Guardian

We cant afford that, says Adams. We need a new fire station, we need to knock down a derelict building, we need a new park for the children to play in. We have many more needs than we have money.

Fellow city council member Ryan Askeland, who owns and runs the towns only restaurant, was also at the meeting: They described the harm it could do to infants under one-year-old and I thought, Holy cow, what theyre putting on the fields is poisoning us.

Checking himself, he looks around his restaurant and softens his language. An uneducated person would say poisoning. What I mean is, it was contaminating the water.

Griswold is a close-knit community. The town folk value their farmer neighbours and are careful not to cause conflict. Over 80% of the people in here are from the farming community at any given time, says Askeland. Everything in this area is pretty much funded by agriculture. We are all on the same team.

Iowa is agriculture. The state produces the most of many things corn, hogs and eggs and jostles with neighbouring Illinois for the top spot in soya bean production. Hefty property taxes paid by farmers keep the lights on in rural towns, many with dwindling populations, right across the midwest. Its no surprise there is inexhaustible goodwill towards them even when some farming practices threaten their drinking water.

In Des Moines, the citys waterworks did blame the farmers, and brought a lawsuit, but it failed. Des Moines Water Works was bitterly disappointed particularly their outspoken CEO, the late Bill Stowe, who died from cancer earlier this year. A controversial figure in Iowa, Stowe waged war on unregulated industrial agriculture and what he called the powerful agro-elite. He likened those who downplay Iowas water quality issues to climate change deniers and held the farming industry responsible for the public health risks associated with high nitrates in drinking water. If a baby died, he said, there would be a clear path between agriculture and the death of that baby.

Speaking to the Guardian shortly before his death, he said: Its disheartening: the image of Iowa as a sacrificed state at the mercy of industrial agriculture. We will continue to be advocates for agricultural producers taking responsibility for the water pollution they are inflicting on the rest of us downstream.

A water quality notice hangs near the beach at Big Creek state park, in Polk City, Iowa. Photograph: Charlie Neibergall/AP

In rural north-west Iowa, Gordon Garrison, a retired corn and soya bean grower, hopes to succeed where Des Moines Water Works failed.

Garrison is allowing his farm to return to wetland. He points down to the creek where he has reintroduced beavers, and beyond to a single-storey white building in the neighbouring field a hog barn, or confined animal feeding operation (Cafo), housing up to 8,800 pigs.

That building has no consideration for environmental impact at all, he says. I have got algal blooms in my downstream water. After they bought the farm, the nitrate level almost doubled.

The pig farm is owned and operated by Minnesota-based company New Fashion Pork. They bought 77 hectares (192 acres) next to Garrisons farm in 2014 and started producing pigs two years later. The building sits over a pit that can hold more than one million gallons of liquified hog manure, and Garrison claims that the manure was spread illegally on snow-covered ground in December 2018.

Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) issued New Fashion Pork with a notice of violation and a fine of $4,800 (3,900). Garrison filed a citizens suit, which he believes will be a precedent-setting case in the US. Garrisons hope is that his legal action will set a precedent and pave the way for tougher regulation of pig Cafos in the context of water quality protection.

New Fashion Pork, which runs 53 pig confinements across Iowa, has said it complies with all manure application requirements and obtained permission from Iowa DNR to surface apply manure. Field conditions were not good in most of the state last fall and winter and the DNR routinely granted permission to producers to surface apply manure in December of 2018, said a legal advisor for New Fashion Pork. The company also said that nitrate loss from crop fields is affected by many factors, but that the source of the nitrogen (manure or commercial fertiliser) has little, if any, effect on the amount of nitrate loss.

The only way to solve this problem is if theres peer pressure, says Gordon. We cant let some guys abuse the system and profit from it. If they prevail in this lawsuit thats just a signal to build more and more.

An aerial view of the Iowan countryside: crop fields stretch out as far as the eye can see. Photograph: Charles Ommanney/Getty Images

Ditching the manure of 20 million pigs

There are already more than 7,000 hog farms in Iowa raising around 20 million pigs at any one time; thats a lot of manure for one state to dispose of. Its long been said Iowa needs a third cash crop to break the dependence on corn and soya bean. As one farmer put it: Weve found one. Its called bacon.

But its not without risk. In Marshall County, 25-year-old Ryan Pickard is a third-generation row crop farmer, growing 1,820 hectares of corn and soya bean who diversified into custom pig production in 2015 to spread the risk from low grain prices.

Ryan and his 29-year-old brother, Brandon, borrowed nearly $1.5m to build two Cafos, with one still under construction. They each house 5,000 newly weaned, 18-day-old pigs. Theyre thinned out as they grow bigger, with half being moved to another site. Ryan fattens the remaining 2,500, which are sent for slaughter direct from the farm.

The brothers do not own the pigs and receive none of the profit. They are paid instead for head space in the building. They do own the manure, which drops through slats into a pit holding up to 800,000 gallons. They also own all the risk associated with it.

Ryan is ruled by the pit. When its full, its full and must be emptied. Its spread once a year on a nearby 80-hectare (200-acre) corn field. He tries to plan ahead, working around the weather, but if theres a spill or run-off, the full responsibility rests on him.

Its something I think about constantly, he says. If not managed properly it could give me a very bad name and I dont want that. If the pit leaks, we need to find the problem and fix it before we can go back into production.

For Ryan the threat of being shut down is all the incentive he needs to manage the pit properly. But across Iowa there are more, and ever louder calls, for real regulation to protect water quality.

At the moment there is nothing in place but a voluntary approach, as laid out in Iowas much-lauded nutrient reduction strategy (NRS) which calls for farmers to plant 5m hectares of cover crops, which are proven to reduce run off and pollution. Iowa-based environmental and citizen groups believe the NRS is a dismal failure, with no deadlines, no rules and no enforcement. The most generous estimate suggests cover crops have been planted on 307,500 hectares, just 2% of Iowas farmland.

Jennifer Terry, executive director of the Iowa Environment Council, says. Its unfair to pretend to Iowans that we can get there in a reasonable timeframe via voluntary means. It will take us thousands of years to get these practices in place at the current rate of implementation.

And do cover crops even work? In Griswold, faced with a $1m bill, the town started working with four local farmers to plant cover crops in the 250-hectare capture zone around the town wells. Brent Bierbaum is one of the farmers involved. We explained to the farmers what was going on and that we were really hoping they would help us, and they were all on board, says councillor Julie Adams.

But despite their efforts, water quality has still not improved. Nitrate levels spiked in 2017 and 2018. At the most recent inspection in February, one well showed an increase of nitrates to 10.5 mg/l.

According to the Department of Natural Resources, nitrates may continue to leach because of legacy nitrogen stored in the soil and continued rates of fertiliser application. One study of a row crop field that had been restored to prairie found that groundwater nitrate concentrations reduced at a snails pace of approximately 0.6 mg/l per year.

Adams is willing to give it more time but admits the trend is going the wrong way. Fellow councillor Askeland has resigned himself to whats coming.

I think cover crops are a band aid, he says. Weve got a wound thats bleeding and eventually were going to need something bigger than a band aid and thats the filtration system.

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Breaking the mould: Leo Varadkar is no typical Irish politician

The gay kid of an Indian immigrant has rebalanced his nations relationship with Britain

When Boris Johnson was foreign secretary he apparently asked his personnel about Leo Varadkar : “Why isn’t he called Murphy like all the rest of them?”When the dripped remark reached Dublin, #peeee

It was probably a joke– and not considerably valued. Johnson had actually struck on a fundamental reality about Varadkar. He is not a normal Irish political leader.

The gay child of an Indian immigrant, a qualified medical physician, and socially uncomfortable, the taoiseach does not fit the typical mould.

Instead of gladhanding constituents and going to funeral services, 2 conventional components of Ireland ‘s parish pump politics, Varadkar chooses to check out policy documents and strategise with assistants. He is, to put it simply, that individual buffooned by Johnson: a swot.

Yet when the 2 fulfilled in north-west England on Thursday, in personal, far from reporters and the typical panoply of summitry, Johnson was required to admire Varadkar, both actually and metaphorically.

The taoiseach is 1.93 m (6ft 4in) and bases on the shoulders of the European Union– its commission, council, parliament and all 27 member states.

The Irish federal government’s success in mobilising the EU behind the border backstop has actually rebalanced Ireland’s traditionally subservient relationship with Britain.

Yet Varadkar, like Johnson, is under tremendous pressure. If the UK leaves the EU without any offer it will hammer Ireland’s economy and destabilise Northern Ireland . Accepting a modified variation of Downing Street’s present strategy, or some other strategy that compromises the backstop, might torpedo Varadkar’s hopes of winning Ireland’s looming election.

The taoiseach would have got directly down to service.

“He does not have a great deal of time for, or interest in, little talk,” stated Brendan O’Shea, a physician who trained Varadkar as a medical trainee. “We have somebody who is forensic about what he believes ought to be done. The determining maker will decide about what is the very best choice then the political leader will turn on and find out a method to offer that.”

Growing up as a GP’s child in a middle-class Dublin suburban area, young Leo stated, at the age of 8, an aspiration to end up being health minister.

A bio states that, as a teen on a school journey to Northern Ireland, the future taoiseach smuggled fireworks back into the republic, which some may think about a metaphor for his function in Brexit.

Varadkar studied medication at Trinity College Dublin and signed up with Fine Gael, a centre-right celebration. Outspoken about tax cuts and well-being reform, some called him “Tory young boy”. His heroes consisted of Otto von Bismarck and Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary.

As a Teachta Dla (member of the Irish parliament) and minister, Varadkar made a credibility for energy, direct language and social tightness– some public interactions left assistants wincing.

Johnson’s bonhomie, nevertheless, might not be absolutely squandered on Varadkar, who has actually chilled out given that coming out as gay in 2015.

“It’s not something that specifies me,” the then health minister informed RT. “I’m not a half-Indian political leader, or a medical professional political leader or a gay political leader for that matter. It’s simply part of who I am.”

It was a brave admission– Ireland had yet to legalise same-sex marital relationship. The action was extremely favorable and Varadkar went on to be successful Enda Kenny as leader of Fine Gael and taoiseach in 2017, and at the same time to go from Mars bar binger to physical fitness fanatic.

“Coming out modifications everyone,” stated Tiernan Brady, an LGBT activist who recommended Varadkar. “In accepting who you are to yourself, which you can still go on to lead your celebration and your nation, that’s been actually verifying. That brings you an entire level of self-confidence.”

Some Irish backstop sceptics caution that Varadkar’s federal government might be experiencing over-confidence, that flexing Brussels to Dublin’s program might backfire, which the broad nationwide agreement behind the technique might discourage the taoiseach from jeopardizing.

“Varadkar’s individual political interests have actually diverted from the nationwide interest,” stated Dan O’Brien, the primary economic expert at the Institute of International and European Affairs. “His political profession might be ended by making a concession on the backstop. Fianna Fil and Sinn Fin would come down on him like a tonne of bricks. It’s never ever an excellent concept for a leader to be painted into a corner.”

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Air pollution particles found on foetal side of placentas study

Research discovers black carbon breathed by moms can cross into coming kids

Air contamination particles have actually been discovered on the foetal side of placentas, suggesting that coming children are straight exposed to the black carbon produced by motor traffic and fuel burning.

The research study is the very first research study to reveal the placental barrier can be permeated by particles taken in by the mom. It discovered countless the small particles per cubic millimetre of tissue in every placenta evaluated.

The link in between direct exposure to filthy air and increased miscarriages , early births and low birth weights is well developed. The research study recommends the particles themselves might be the cause, not exclusively the inflammatory reaction the contamination produces in moms.

Damage to fetus has long-lasting repercussions and Prof Tim Nawrot at Hasselt University in Belgium, who led the research study, stated: “This is the most susceptible duration of life. All the organ systems remain in advancement. For the security of future generations, we need to lower direct exposure.” When possible, he stated federal governments had the obligation of cutting air contamination however that individuals need to prevent hectic roadways.

A detailed international evaluation concluded that air contamination might be destructive every organ and practically every cell in the body. Nanoparticles have actually likewise been discovered to cross the blood-brain barrier and billions have actually been discovered in the hearts of young city occupants .

While air contamination is minimizing in some countries, the proof of damage brought on by even low levels is quickly increasing and 90% of the world’s population reside in locations where air contamination is above World Health Organization (WHO) standards.

The research study, released in the journal Nature Communications , analyzed 25 placentas from non-smoking ladies in the town of Hasselt. It has particle contamination levels well listed below the EU limitation, although above the WHO restrict. Scientists utilized a laser strategy to identify the black carbon particles, which have a distinct light finger print.

In each case, they discovered nanoparticles on the foetal side of the number and the placenta associated with air contamination levels experienced by the moms. There was approximately 20,000 nanoparticles per cubic millimetre in the placentas of moms who lived near primary roadways. For those more away, the average was 10,000 per cubic millimetre.

They likewise took a look at placentas from miscarriages and discovered the particles existed even in 12-week-old fetus. The very first report of possible contamination particles in placentas existed at a conference in September 2018, though the structure of the particles had actually not been validated.

The detection of the particles on the foetal side of the placental barrier suggests it was likely the fetus were exposed, Nawrot stated. Work to evaluate foetal blood for particles is now under method, as is research study to see if the particles trigger DNA damage.

The group likewise discovered black carbon particles in the urine of main school kids . The research study, released in 2017, discovered approximately 10 million particles per millilitre in numerous nine-to-12-year-olds checked. “It reveals there is translocation of particles from the lungs to all organ systems,” stated Nawrot.

“It is truly challenging to provide individuals useful guidance, due to the fact that everybody needs to breathe,” he stated. “But what individuals can do is prevent hectic roadways as much as possible. There can be extremely high levels beside hectic roadways, however simply a couple of metres away can be lower.”

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Air contamination has actually been referred to as the ‘brand-new tobacco’ by the head of the World Health Organization. Over 90 % of the world’s population suffers poisonous air and research study is progressively exposing the extensive effect on the health of individuals, specifically kids.

Babies and kids’ establishing bodies are most at threat from harmful air, with 300 million living in locations where harmful fumes are 6 times above the worldwide standards.

A thorough international evaluation discovered that air contamination might be destructive every organ and practically every cell in the body . It triggers problems from heart and lung illness to diabetes and dementia, and from liver issues and bladder cancer to breakable bones and harmed skin. The systemic damage is the outcome of toxins triggering swelling that then floods through the body, and from ultrafine particles being brought around the body by the blood stream.

In the UK, while deaths credited to air contamination have actually cut in half in the last 4 years, many metropolitan locations have unlawful levels of air contamination. One in 20 deaths in the UK is still attributable to little particle contamination alone

Damian Carrington, Environment editor

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Prof Jonathan Grigg, whose group provided the very first report of particles in 5 placentas in September, invited the research study and stated the group’s work had actually given that been broadened and would be released quickly.

“We see proof of particles in all females– it is not like it is a one-off,” stated Grigg at Queen Mary University of London in the UK. “It suggests that every day we have these extremely little particles moving our bodies.”

“We need to be safeguarding fetus and this is another suggestion that we require to get [air contamination] levels down,” he stated. “But individuals should not be absolutely frightened.” He stated the overall weight of the small particles was little and more research study was required to identify their effect, however he recommended individuals to utilize lower contamination transportation optionsor public transportation, instead of cars and trucks.

Grigg stated: “This brand-new field of research study definitely focuses our attention on the direct function of particles getting to the tissues, instead of particles entering into the lungs and launching other [inflammatory] compounds.”

Air contamination research study now reveals complete scale physical damage, from heart and lung illness to diabetes and decreased intelligence to breakable bones and harmed skin. The WHO calls air contamination a “ public health emergency situation ” and current analysis shows 8.8 million sudden deaths each year, though researchers presume even this might be “ the suggestion of the iceberg “.

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Dark crystals: the brutal reality behind a booming wellness craze

The long read: Demand for healing crystals is soaring but many are mined in deadly conditions in one of the worlds poorest countries. And there is little evidence that this billion-dollar industry is cleaning up its act

In February, crystals colonised Tucson. They spread out over carparks and gravel lots, motel courtyards and freeway footpaths, past strip malls and burger bars. Beneath tents and canopies, on block after block, rested every kind of stone imaginable: the opaque, soapy pastels of angeline; dark, mossy-toned epidote; tourmaline streaked with red and green. There were enormous, dining-table-sized pieces selling for tens of thousands of dollars, lumps of rose quartz for $100, crystal eggs for $1.50. Crystals were stacked upon crystals, filling plastic trays, carved into every possible shape: knives, penises, bathtubs, angels, birds of paradise.

It was the month of the Tucson gem shows, a series of markets and exhibitions that collectively make up the largest crystal expo in the world. More than 4,000 crystal, mineral and gemstone vendors had come to sell their wares. They were expecting more than 50,000 customers to pass through, from new age enthusiasts with thick dreadlocks and tie-dye T-shirts, to gallery owners, suited businessmen and major wholesalers. Deals done here would determine the fate of tens of thousands of tonnes of crystals, dispatching them across the US and Europe into museums and galleries, crystal healing and yoga centres, wellness retailers and Etsy stores.

Five years ago, crystals were not a big deal. Now, powered by the lucrative combination of social media-friendly aesthetics, cosmic spirituality and the apparently unstoppable wellness juggernaut, they have gone from a niche oddity associated with patchouli and crushed velvet to a global consumer phenomenon. On Instagram, hashtags for #crystals and #healingcrystals tick into the tens of millions. In 2017, the New York Times heralded the great crystal boom and in 2018 Hello! described them as the years biggest health and wellness trend. Sold as lamps, sex toys, facial massagers or vaginal eggs hawked by Gwyneth Paltrows lifestyle empire Goop, there is now a crystal for every possible occasion. As Kim Kardashian was recovering from her robbery at gunpoint in 2016, she embraced healing crystals. The model Miranda Kerr has said that she filters all her skincare products through rose quartz to give the vibration of self-love.

The Gem and Mineral Show in Tucson, Arizona in 2014. Photograph: BAE Inc/Alamy

In the US, demand for overseas crystals and gemstones has doubled over the past three years, and quartz imports have doubled since 2014. (Those numbers capture raw stone, but not the crystals imported under many other categories: jewellery, home goods, decorations.) Daniel Trinchillo, owner of Fine Minerals International, a high-end crystal dealership, told me that his business makes between $30m and $40m in sales each year. Trinchillo caters to a growing cohort of celebrities, collectors and investment buyers who want rare and valuable crystals. The most expensive single piece he has sold went for $6m, but he knows of some that have sold for $10m. Trinchillo estimates that high-end dealers now account for about $500m in annual sales. Include the lower end, he said, and you are talking about a highly profitable, multi-billion dollar industry.

Believers say crystals conduct ambient energy like miniature phone towers picking up signals and channelling them on to the user thus rebalancing malign energies, healing the body and mind. First popularised in the west in the 1970s, crystal healings recent resurgence has coincided with growing interest in alternative spirituality and healing practices. According to Pew Research Center data, more than 60% of US adults hold at least one new age belief, such as placing faith in astrology or the power of psychics, and 42% think spiritual energy can be located in physical objects such as crystals. Not surprisingly, then, scientific criticism of crystal healing has done little to dim demand. Last year, Paltrow faced (and settled) a misleading advertising lawsuit for claiming that Goops vaginal egg crystals had the power to balance hormones and regulate menstrual cycles. But still, the rise of crystals continues.

Despite that explosive growth, the way the crystal industry operates has largely avoided close scrutiny. There is little in the way of fair-trade certification for crystals, and none of the industry-wide transparency schemes developed for commodities such as gold and diamonds. Tracing a crystal from the time it is dragged, dusty and cracked, from the earth, to the polished moment of final sale requires a journey backward down the supply chain: from shop, to exporter, to middleman, to mine, and finally to the men and women who work below the ground, on whose labour a billion-dollar industry has been built.

Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world, but beneath its soil is a well-stocked treasure chest. Rose quartz and amethyst, tourmaline and citrine, labradorite and carnelian: Madagascar has them all. Gems and precious metals were the countrys fastest-growing export in 2017 up 170% from 2016, to $109m. This island country of 25 million people now stands alongside far larger nations, such as India, Brazil and China, as a key producer of crystals for the world. And in a country where infrastructure, capital and labour regulation are all in short supply, it is human bodies rather than machinery that pull crystals from the earth. While a few large mining companies operate in Madagascar, more than 80% of crystals are mined artisanally meaning by small groups and families, without regulation, who are paid rock-bottom prices.

If you want to know where the rose quartz on your shelves comes from, Anjoma Ramartina is a good place to begin. A collection of villages that sits atop some of Madagascars largest rose quartz deposits, it is a days drive from the capital city of Antananarivo. The further you travel from the capital, the greater the security risks. Large swathes of territory are described as red zones, considered unpoliceable by state forces. Rural villages often face raids from armed gangs known as dahalo, who steal cattle, sometimes killing, robbing or raping villagers. In January, the week we arrived in Anjoma Ramartina, three men armed with machetes were killed in a clash with village police. Do not travel or go out at night, people warned. Drive in convoy. Stay off the roads after 5pm.

madagascar map

Most homes in Anjoma Ramartina have no electricity, no running water, no phone or network connections. Malnutrition is common. According to the World Bank, around 80% of those outside Madagascars cities live below the $1.90-a-day poverty line. Health researchers found around half of parents in Anjoma Ramartina had lost at least one infant child to illness or hunger. As we made our way there, the driver noted that the road had recently been sealed a vast difference from the deeply potholed gravel nearer town. This is one of the best roads I have seen here. He laughed: Here in Madagascar, the road only gets made when there is something they want to get out.

In a cool, dark room in the town council hall, Many Jean Rahandrinimaro, the deputy mayor of Anjoma Ramartina, sunk into a black vinyl couch. Crystal, amethyst, rose quartz, he said. Everything except sapphires and rubies, we mine here. He placed a few stones on the wooden table in front of him: polished clear quartz and purple amethyst. He estimated that from a population of about 10,000 people, up to a quarter of locals now depended on the mines for some income. Between two and four men died each year in the crystal pits surrounding this village, he said only two last year, but often it was three or four. Sometimes its very dangerous but they still mine, because they want money, he said. Theres the possibility of landslide, that happens a lot here. The soil falls on them and they die.

Landslides are not the only danger for miners. Smashed rocks create fine dust and quartz particles can penetrate deep into the lungs. There, they fester, inflaming surrounding cells, increasing the risk of lung cancer and silicosis. Child labour is also widespread: the US Department of Labor and the International Labour Organization estimate that about 85,000 children work in Madagascars mines.

A few days after our first meeting, I returned to the town hall. In a ruled exercise book, Many Jean traced a finger over the towns registry of deaths, tapping entries on the page: here and here, the two men who died in the mines last year, recorded in neat cursive handwriting. And here, Benoit Razafimahatratra, who had died two years earlier when he was looking for quartz at a quarry to the east. Many Jean knew where Benoits family lived, and offered to show the way on his motorbike.

Rose quartz lies in the sun at the edge of a mine near Anjoma Ramartina. Photograph: Tess McClure

Bomber jacket flapping behind him, Many Jean took us to the next village. Sitting in a small shop that sold fritters and dried fish was Jean Gregoire Randrianarisoa. He looked tired. Yes, his older brother had died, he said. What killed him was digging for stones, about 15 metres deep. He went into a tunnel and it collapsed from above and he was buried someone called for help: Help! Zafimahatratra is buried down there! Thats when I went with his children to dig him up, he said.

Benoit was about 55 when he died, said his widow, Josephine Rasondrina, a tiny woman, less than 5 feet tall, with hair neatly divided into braids. She brought out a photograph of him. His features had faded. Josephine gestured at her two granddaughters, about six or seven years old, sitting on the steps. Since my husband died, they stopped going to school. Since my husband died I got really tired. She raised her fingers to her temple. I am really tired. Emotionally and physically because I have to work the field to feed my children.

Common crystals, such as quartz, can form almost anywhere around the world, when water and steam carry mineral particles into fractures in the earth. Drawn together by the mutual attraction of their electrical charges, their molecules stack in orderly sequences, forming defined planes and repeating facets that can create the pleasing shapes geodes, prisms that theyre sought for. In the mineral-rich earth of central Madagascar, villagers often find quartz and citrine deposits by chance, when they are revealed by landslide or washed down to nearby riverbeds. The mines dug to meet growing demand are often improvised, operated off the books and without permits.

One of these makeshift mines lies about an 18-mile hike from Anjoma Ramartinas nearest road. Rakotondrasolo, the man who villagers called the mine owner, found the site about 20 years ago, and continues to work there, along with his family, to this day. One morning, he agreed to show me the mine. Rakotondrasolo is tall and very thin. His worn flannel shirt was buttoned over a T-shirt with the face of Andry Rajoelina, Madagascars newly elected president. (The T-shirts were everywhere, after being thrown from trucks and doled out at political rallies across the country during the 2018 election campaign.) The red dust of the landscape had worked its way into the weave of his clothing until every garment was infused with terracotta orange.

As we made our way along the red dirt track to the mine, the sun was directly above, shimmeringly hot. Here and there was a sparkle among the scrubby grass: hunks of pink crystal, scattered at the paths edge. Walking behind Rakotondrasolo, his wife pointed: The stones are beautiful, she said quietly, but the work is very hard. Then the grass of the track ended sharply and the deep red cavern of the mine fell away in front of us. Keep away from the edge, said Rakotondrasolo, gesturing to where the ground was cracked and unstable. The pit dropped 15 metres deep, narrowing as it deepened. On the sheer face of rock were cross-hatched marks of spades and pickaxes. At the far side of the cavern, a huge pile of rose-coloured stones caught the sunlight. At the bottom, a passage disappeared, curving out of the light.

Rakotondrasolo, a miner from a village near Anjoma Ramartina, at the edge of the rose quartz mine where he and his family work. Photograph: Tess McClure

Be careful, he said, as we trod over the edge of the crater, the rocks are sharp. Rose quartz cracked underfoot: jagged, gleaming, a little translucent, shining like the flesh of a fresh-filleted tuna. Later, he lifted a worn trouser leg to show the scars he had acquired from a lifetime of mining: on the right leg, where falling stones crushed his shin, and on the left where a sharp edge split the skin, requiring six stitches.

At other times, this crater would have been busy with the sound of men at work his sons and nephews, who would come to dig and then split the cost of stone they sold but today it was silent except for Rakotondrasolos careful footsteps. They had stopped work: rains had been heavy, and they worried that the water made the cavern less stable. I was afraid, and was afraid for my children because of this soil. It can collapse on them. I asked them to stop working here, Rakotondrasolo said.

He threw in a handful of gravel and it tumbled to the bottom. Of his 10 children, seven worked with him in the mine. The boys started at the age of about 14. When they find a thick seam of quartz they smash it out of the rock, then chain the pieces together. Some blocks are small, but others are 100kg or even 200kg. The miners drag the boulders out of the hole, sometimes five people hauling together, up on to the grass embankment and toward the hill where lorries come to load them.

I asked where the crystals went from there. To the ports, Rakotondrasolo shrugged. He did not know. Somewhere overseas. A long time ago a client brought him a rose orb, cut and polished into a sphere, to show him what eventually became of some of the stones he had mined. But the buyers mostly say little about what the crystals are used for or where they end up. They pay him and leave about 800 ariary, or 23 a kilo, he said 17 for lower quality. It is not much when the money is split between the men at work: 800 ariary buys a cup of rice at the village market.

As Rakotondrasolo stepped away from the crater, a low hiss sounded behind him. We turned back to see a thin layer of red gravel, loosened from the wall, slide down into the hole.

While some mines are large, open pits, others are claustrophobically small: networks of tunnels piercing the earth. About 120 miles east of Anjoma Ramartina lies Ibity, a small village surrounded by tourmaline mines, where you have to dig deep to find stones.

The deeper you go, the more difficult it is to breathe, said Italy Miliama, a shopkeeper at the centre of the village, scooping coffee into enamel cups.

Once you see a stone, you follow it to find the other stones, said one of his friends. We dig, dig, dig. We call it the stone way, the way of stones.

Tavita, 14, working at a mine near Ibity. Photograph: Tess McClure

The mines at Ibity spread out like an ochre moonscape. On the morning I visited, about 20 people were above ground sifting through the soil. Among them, a local miner named Jean Baptiste Rakotondravelo and his son stood barefoot, turning a large, improvised pulley. Their backs strained against the weight. A moment later, up came a large yellow jerrycan, full of red earth from below. Jean Baptistes son carried it to his mother and young siblings and dumped it on a pile of dirt that they sifted with their fingers. The day was hot, the sun nearing its peak. Its extremely hard work, Jean Baptiste said. It cant be done by a few people. It has to be done by many.

At his feet was a hole about a metre in diameter, with sheer sides like a well. Shining my torch down the hole, I couldnt see to the bottom. Every so often a faint shout echoed up from the darkness, and Jean Baptiste and his son put their backs again to pulling up the bucket. His other sons were working down there, Jean Baptiste told me, digging for tourmaline. He shrugged: Go down if you like.

Near the top of the hole, it was possible to make out mosquitoes catching the light. As they turned the pulley and I descended, gripping the rope with both hands, the light retreated. The passage down was tight, the damp earth walls grazing my back, elbows and knees. Reaching the bottom, the air felt thin and it was a little harder to draw a full breath. On one side, there was a small horizontal tunnel with room only to crawl.

I crouched and shouted into the darkness. Salama! two young voices called back, and deep in the tunnel, pair of dim headlamps turned to face me. Two boys blinked into the torchlight. The smallest wore a yellow cloth baseball cap, and his eyes were wide, mouth slightly open with surprise. Their names were Roland and Tavita: Jean Baptistes sons, who he says are about 14 and 17. They started working down here two years ago, spending hours digging underground, crouching in the dark, backs curved, calves aching.

Tavita (left) and Roland, 17, hunting for tourmaline around 15-20 metres below ground. Photograph: Tess McClure

Deep underground, we looked mutely at each other for a moment. Ducking into the crawl-space, I was conscious of the weight of dirt resting above us: about 19 tonnes of soil and rock, suspended only by its own natural cohesion. Roland and Tavita squatted, jamming a spade or crowbar into the soil to dislodge it and pack it into the jerrycan. When it was full they would crawl back toward the light, shoving the heavy dirt bucket ahead of them, to be dragged up top.

When its too long they can have difficulty breathing, so they come out, Jean Baptiste said, back at the top of the well. Above ground, the boys mother, Odette, sat working alongside two generations of children, the youngest a fat-cheeked six-month-old girl. Odette sifted through the dirt, searching for a rock shaped differently from the rest: the small, wine-red and green crystal, tourmaline. Sometimes we go months without finding any, she said. They had found just one today, about the size of a knuckle.

Odette held it out to me, streaked with red dust, in the middle of her palm. At that moment, it was worth just a few cents. But in the months to come, it would slide along the global supply chain, its value multiplying with each stage of the journey.

For the crystals mined in Anjoma Ramartina, the path out of the country is through a company called Madagascar Specimens, which exports about 65 tonnes of carved crystals a year. At its premises, a converted house in the outer suburbs of Antananarivo, boxes of crystals were stacked against the wall. A row of shining SUVs were parked outside the house. Samples stood on the disused fireplace: carved angels, pyramids, geodes, wands. The rose quartz had been trucked in rough from Anjoma Ramartina by a local middleman, the villages former mayor, who bought large quantities from Rakotondrasolos mine.

The owner of Madagascar Specimens, Liva Marc Rahdriaharisoa, a tall man in dark jeans, wire-rimmed glasses and a navy T-shirt, gestured to the stack of boxes to his left, packed for shipping. This, for example, is going to Canada. This to Netherlands. This to the United States, he said.

He lifted the lid on a box of quartz massage wands. These are very popular. Then another box of rose quartz hearts: Some of our best sellers, he said. Crystals are the most popular stones now many customers are looking for it, because Im not sure of the English the medicine with crystals is very popular now. Like therapy, the belief crystals have healing power, you know? Its very how do you say? trendy.

The gem and mineral expo in Tucson was a key point in Liva Marcs year. That is where youre looking for customers, he said. You see all customers from around the world: Chinese, Japanese, New Zealand, Australian. It is the biggest market in the world. We go there to exhibit, to sell, but most important is to find customers there.

Between the buyers in the US and the mines in Madagascar was a gulf of experience, which, sitting in the courtyard of Liva Marcs small factory, he found hard to express. Its like two galaxies, he said, grinning and shaking his head. Its a big difference. If I say to people at the mine what Tuscon is like, they will never understand. And if I say to the Tucson people to come here, they will never understand. Its very different worlds.

He acknowledged the poor conditions at the mines he bought from. You were shocked, but I was shocked, too! When you see in the rough, [stones weighing] like 50kg, 60kg, they drag it four, five kilometres, two or three per day, and earning only $1? You know, its He paused. Sometimes you cant imagine how they can do this.

Madagascar Specimens exports some crystals rough, but its workshop in Antananarivo also works the stones, cutting them into shapes, grinding and polishing the faces. From Liva Marcs perspective, refining the stone in Madagascar means creating steady jobs and keeping more of the value of the crystals in the country. With stone that was exported rough and then carved in China or the US, almost none of the profit stayed in Madagascar.

Maybe they [shops in the US] dont explain it to their customers. Its business for them, they want money. They will never say: I buy this for $1 and I sell to you for $1,000, he laughed, but thats the reality.

The plunder of Madagascars resources for profit is nothing new. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the country was a source of slaves, bought by Europeans and sent to work in brutal conditions, often on sugar plantations on the islands of Mauritius, Runion and Rodrigues. When the French colonised Madagascar in 1895, they outlawed slavery, but ushered in a new era of forced labour and extraction, with tens of thousands of tonnes of rosewood and millions of francs worth of gold shipped offshore each year. More than a century later, the countrys riches still rarely benefit the Malagasy people, says Zo Andriamaro, a sociologist and human rights analyst. Gold, cobalt, sapphires, crystals: she sees them all as part of the same old story, resources siphoned out of the country for the benefit of foreign companies. There has to be some more systematic way of controlling and regulating the market for all types of minerals coming from here, she says. It is totally unjust.

Mining also threatens Madagascars rainforest. When new mining sites are discovered, sometimes thousands of men migrate to mine, encroaching on protected environmental areas and threatening the survival of endangered species. Embracing mining on a larger scale is intrinsically, fundamentally unsustainable and destructive, Andriamaro says. You can never pretend that you will restore the environment to its initial state.

The month after we spoke in Madagascar, Liva Marc and a shipping container full of his stones landed in Arizona, bound for the Tucson shows. I met him in a hotel lobby, one of three retail spots he had in the city. Business was good, he said. Buyers from all over the world had come.

The stalls around him showcased towering display pieces: rose quartz boulders, massive amethyst geodes. They had been cleaned, polished and set on display, but he still looked at them and thought of their origins. All these big pieces imagine how they must dig it. How difficult it must be, he said. Imagine how it starts.

While the crystal business is booming, and largely among consumers who tend to be concerned with environmental impact, fair trade and good intentions, there is little sign of the kind of regulation that might improve conditions for those who mine them.

Julia Schoen, co-founder of the crystal drink bottle company Glacce (tagline Luxury Spiritual) told me that ethical sourcing is the No 1 priority for her company. Schoen was speaking on the phone from her office in New Orleans, where she told me she was surrounded by crystals that had been unboxed and laid out, waiting to be blessed by staff, who would burn sage smudge sticks and pray to cleanse them before use.

Glacce sells water bottles and metal straws embedded with rose quartz, amethyst and other crystals, which are supposed to transform ordinary water into a crystal elixir, where the water takes on the healing properties of the crystal. The bottles were touted by Vanity Fair as 2018s Status Symbol and are sold by bohemian-themed fashion retailer Free People, as well as Goop. Schoen said sales of the bottles, which retail for $60-$100, had increased exponentially since they started the business, and demand often outstripped supply.

The Tucson Gem and Mineral Show in 2012. Photograph: Zuma Press/Alamy

But even with a booming market, she said, the company didnt yet have a budget to track their crystals to their source at the mines. Instead, Glacce depended on Chinese middlemen to select crystals, including those from Madagascar. Schoen told me that Glacces suppliers know that we do not want to be having our money go towards a mine thats using child labour. They know all these things. At present, she said, they considered transparency a high priority and hoped to develop relationships with individual mines by 2020, but could offer no concrete reassurances about the current conditions of their miners.

In an industry that has not been so regulated and maybe hasnt had so many eyeballs on it, there are obviously practices that most people who are purchasing crystals would not want to know about, Schoen acknowledged. You know, at the end of the day its like, our intentions are she paused. I think were clear what our intentions are.

The challenge of sourcing crystals ethically is one faced by the industry as a whole: Glacce, Goop or any given Etsy vendor are no more culpable than the next crystal dealer. Every retailer I spoke to raised the question of price. Would crystal consumers really be willing to pay more to guarantee safer, child labour-free mines, or a fair wage for miners? Schoen compared it to the organic food movement: if enough people wanted assurance of their products provenance, the supply systems would develop.

At Tuscon, in the marquee for crystal vendor The Village Silversmith, I asked owner John Bajoras tall, tanned and broad-shouldered, with an enormous shark tooth around his neck where the responsibility lay if crystals were coming from mines where people, many of them children, were risking their lives for meagre pay. It is all about the customers, Bajoras said. Its a complete conundrum. I get somebody with dreadlocks, and a peace-hippie attitude, and you try to sell them a piece of labradorite from Madagascar for $12. And theyre like: Ill give you $6, dude. Thats where the fucking problem is. If they were like Its $12? Well, how about I give you $20? [then] you could kick $8 back down the line, sure. Thats the problem. The problem is your end consumer. Not anybody else in the pipeline. The end consumer is the person who sets the price.

Bajoras visited Madagascar often, but rarely made it out to the mines, opting instead to deal with middlemen in the cities. But he knew the villages of Anjoma Ramartina and Ibity: Yeah. All our rose quartz comes from that area. All the tourmaline comes from there, he said.

And if some of the conditions are truly awful? Awful is relative, remember, he shot back. The volume of his voice rose slightly, but he was still smiling. Your job looks horrible to me. I feel for you. Im glad that youre willing to do it, because we need people like you to do it, but I aint fuckin doing it, no way. I would rather die in a mine, any day, no doubt. Holy shit. No. Not happening. Spell check? Youre out of your fucking mind.

Meanwhile, the $4.2tn wellness industry rolls on, bolstered by profits from cheap crystals and a generation looking for alternative modes of healing. Bajoras was confident his stones had healing power. After all, he said, if uranium could kill you, why shouldnt lithium quartz be able to help cure your depression? And when you broke it down to an elemental level, he said, people are mostly minerals and water anyway. Youre hydrated mineral powder, he told me. You are! Youre like Kool-Aid.

Beneath a tented canopy beside the Tucson freeway, his colleague Alexa Stamison was selling an array of Madagascan rose quartz, carnelian and amethyst. Stamison had a warm, open manner and an encyclopedic knowledge of their stones.

A woman dressed all in white crocheted shirt, maxi skirt and headscarf draped over her top-knot approached the stall. How much is this carnelian? she asked. The stone was $30. A stone of empowerment, Stamison told me, great for women going out on their own or moving into a new home.

I think I need it, it was just calling to me and I couldnt walk away, the woman said. I dont need a bag, Ill just carry it. She walked away, cradling the stone.

If anything, Stamison wonders if the circumstances of miners in Madagascar, makes the pieces a lot more special. Because I know some person in a little baby hut was actually polishing it by hand, and theyre setting their intentions into it, too, she said. Peoples intentions and peoples energy are put into the stones as theyre producing it.

So the circumstances theyre mined in, they are embedded into the stone somehow? I asked.

I think so. A little bit, it has to be. It has to be.

Additional research by Holifeno Hantanrinoro and Teddy Rahenintsoa

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