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Pollution control board can't control sale of toxic Holi colours

The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) can do very little to actually control the sale of harmful colours during the Holi festivities. According to board officials, the real authority to ban such colours lies with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).

NOT SAFE: Toxic Holi colours are being openly sold everywhere, as the BMC has not taken any action or banned their entry into the market.
NOT SAFE: Toxic Holi colours are being openly sold everywhere, as the BMC has not taken any action or banned their entry into the market. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi

The MPCB has been running awareness campaigns in cinema halls and on radio channels, promoting eco-friendly colours and ways to save water. However, toxic colours are freely being sold everywhere. These colours contain harmful substances such as zinc, chromium, mercury, lead, mercury, asbestos etc.

MPCB spokesperson Sanjay Bhuskute said, “For the last six years, we have been creating awareness and appealing to people to save water and play Holi with environment-friendly colours. In the last five years, we’ve seen a positive response to the campaigns. This year, too, we expect people to avoid buying toxic colours and use eco-friendly colours instead.”

Bhuskute also said that the board officials were also campaigning to get people to avoid using polythene bags, which cause injuries.

Bhuskute further added that it was the responsibility of the BMC to take action against those selling toxic colours. “We don’t have the authority to take action against such merchants. It is the BMC’s job.”

An official from MPCB, requesting anonymity, informed mid-day that a considerable amount of such toxic colours come into the market from Dharavi. “The BMC should have a proper plan much before Holi and conduct raids at such units, so that the colour does not reach the market. Now with Holi a couple of days away, it will be very difficult to stop its sale as it has already reached the market.”

In the past, there have been cases where people have suffered skin allergies due to these colours. If they enter the eyes, there is also a chance of loss of vision.
Andheri resident Dilip Shinde recalled, “Last year after Holi, I noticed red rashes on my entire body. When I went to the doctor the next day, he told me it was a reaction to the harmful content in the colours. I will play dry Holi using the environment friendly colours this year.”

Doctor says
Dr Sneh Thadani, dermatologist at Sai Snehdeep Hospital in Koparkhairane suggested that in case one suffered rashes, one should apply calamine lotion to soothe the skin. “Also apply liberal amounts of waterproof sunscreen (SPF 30 or above) to all exposed parts of the body to avoid a potential photochemical reaction when the chemicals in colours come in contact with sunlight,” she added.

Officials from the concerned department, the shops and establishments department, were unavailable for comment, as their phones were switched off.

Harmful side effects
Recent studies have found safety issues with all three forms in which Holi colours are produced: pastes, dry colours and water colours. The various ingredients found in synthetic colours like lead oxide (black), mercury sulphide (red), aluminium bromide (silver), copper sulphate (green), Prussian blue have been known to cause various health problems ranging from dermatitis (skin becoming red and blotchy), eye allergies, skin problems and even temporary blindness. 

Harmful side effects

Recent studies have found safety issues with all three forms in which Holi colours are produced: pastes, dry colours and water colours.

The various ingredients found in synthetic colours like lead oxide (black), mercury sulphide (red), aluminium bromide (silver), copper sulphate (green), Prussian blue have been known to cause various health problems ranging from dermatitis (skin becoming red and blotchy), eye allergies, skin problems and even temporary blindness.

Dos
>> Experts strongly recommend applying a thin layer of coconut-based oil to exposed areas followed by sunscreen, to avoid colours from damaging the scalp or skin, especially in cases of acne or sensitive skin

>> Tie up your hair and cover your head with a bandana or scarf to avoid hair loss caused by chemicals in colours

>> Use organic colours free from any such side effects, like haldi for yellow, red sandalwood or multani mitti for brown

>> Drink plenty of water before stepping out of your house.

Don’ts
>> “Don’t over-use shampoos after celebration; let the colour fade away naturally, which takes two to three days,” said Dr Rashmi Shetty, a dermatologist. Use a deep conditioner and don’t immediately straighten
your hair.

>> “Avoid using homemade scrubs like sugar and glycerine or any loofah, which will only make the colours seep into the skin causing more damage,” suggests Dr Mohan Thomas, a cosmetologist. Instead use a wet cloth.

>> Avoid red gulaal, which contains harmful substances like mercury sulphite, green gulaal (copper sulphate) or silver colour. All of these cause irritation to the eyes, skin abrasions and visual impairment.

>> Avoid wearing lens or spectacles while celebrating.

>> Don’t colour your hair or use any chemical treatment one week before Holi.

>> Enjoy your glass of bhang, but avoid consuming it if mixed with liquor.

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