New Delhi : Amid the riot of powdered hues and watery splashes that Holi brings, experts say people should not ignore safety issues as toxic chemical colours could bring on severe skin infections, eye injuries and other problems.
The festival of colours will be celebrated March 8 this year.
“The use of synthetic colours during Holi can cause severe irritation, dermatitis, burning, redness and also in some cases blister formation. It can also lead to irreversible pigmentation,” Amit Bangia, consultant dermatologist at the Asian Institute of Medical Sciences, said .
“Besides, many water colours have an alkaline base capable of causing temporary blindness and severe injuries. Colours in the form of pastes sometimes have toxic compounds mixed in a base of engine oil or other inferior quality oil,” Bangia added.
Chemical colours have been in vogue for a long time, and the cost-effectiveness and easy availability make them more preferred than natural colours, say experts. But often people are not aware of their harmful effects.
But one can prepare organic colours at home.
“Turmeric can be used for yellow colour. Henna can act as a green colour and dried rose petals can be substituted for red,” Bangia said.
The dangers lie not just in colours. Throwing water-filled balloons can also cause injury if targeted at the eyes or ears.
“The balloons used by children during Holi are most dangerous and can cause blunt eye injury. An injury can lead to the loss of vision or loss of the eye. These are all eye emergencies and should be taken care of as early as possible,” said Nikhil Seth, consultant opthalmologist at the Asian Institute of Medical Sciences.
“Eyes are extremely susceptible during Holi because of their strategic place in the body and also because the use of harmful chemicals is known to cause eye irritation,” added Seth.
While the best precaution remains use of natural colours, people are also advised to reduce their hours of playing Holi or take breaks when playing it at a stretch.
“If it is played for six to seven hours at a stretch, he/she is vulnerable to acquiring irritants such as burns, blisters or contract allergy, mild discolouration (which is reversible) and acne. It’s best advised to take a break in between,” Bangia said.
Another set of precautions is to use a protective barrier between skin and colour. A layer of sun screen could help prevent direct contact of chemicals with skin. After playing with colours, use lukewarm water to clean your body.
“People must realise that the colours have been added to Holi to make the festival more joyous and enjoyable and not to cause inconvenience to others. So, the next time you play with colours, use good quality or natural colours and play according to the convenience of others,” suggests Seth.
North Delhi resident Moti Lal Ganju, 45, says he has always played the festival with natural colours. But with synthetic colours flooding the markets, it is best to make the colours at home.
“These days, Holi colours are sold loosely on the roadside by small traders who often do not know the source. Sometimes, the colours come in boxes that specifically say ‘For industrial use only’,” Lal said .
“We should make sure our family celebrates the festival with organic colours. Let us not allow hard colours to spoil the charm of gujiyas and music,” Lal quipped.