Safety on Priority During the Festival of Colours

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Safety on Priority During the Festival of Colours

Dr. Aritra Sarkar, Consultant Dermatologist, Medica Superspceicalty Hospital

Before you step out on 21st of March to rent the air with burst of colours and smear friends and family members with bright hues of red, green, yellow, purple, pink and blue, take a step back and think, are you causing more harm in that moment of frenzy and frolic, not just to your own skin but that of your companion as well. Blatant use of inexpensive over-the-counter artificial colours which is prepared with the help of chemical solvents and toxic agents like lead oxide, mercury sulphite and copper sulphate can cause minor to severe damage to your skin, eyes, lungs, liver and kidneys.

While most of us like the idea of heading out to play Holi with colours, it comes with its own set of issues like dry and frizzy hair, pimples and breakouts. The dry ‘gulal or abir’ and the wet colours of today are not derived from natural sources. They contain chemicals, shiny particles of mica and even lead, which not only irritates the skin, but collects on the scalp and gets deposited in the nails too.

There are toxic chemicals like lead, copper sulphate, aluminium bromide, zinc, asbestos and mercury (to name a few) that are used to manufacture coloured powders are extremely harmful. They can lead to temporary blindness, asthma, renal problems and in the case of mercury sulphite (used to make the red colour) it even causes skin cancer. There are possible chances of attracting allergic contact dermatitis over skin and allergic reaction to eye due to presence of these harmful chemicals. There may be red bumpy itchy skin rashes on and around exposed area.

“There are toxic chemicals like lead, copper sulphate, aluminium bromide, zinc, asbestos and mercury (to name a few) that are used to manufacture coloured powders are extremely harmful. They can lead to temporary blindness, asthma, renal problems and in the case of mercury sulphite (used to make the red colour), even causes skin cancer. It may cause allergic contact dermatitis over skin and allergic reaction to eye due to presence of harmful chemicals. There may be red bumpy itchy skin rashes on and around exposed area,” said Dr. Sarkar.

So does it mean no one will enjoy with colours, they will, definitely, yet with some adequate safety measures for the skin. Few awareness and cautious approach will make us enjoy Holi hassle free. It is not just the adults even children are vulnerable while playing with colours. It’s best to use home-made or natural colours for everybody but especially for children. Organic colours that are also eco-friendly are safer than any chemical artificial colours. Wet colours can be more harmful especially for young children, as they penetrate the skin more deeply. We must keep plenty of water nearby. In case of irritation to eye or skin we should wash the area gently and thoroughly with water. One should wear loose cotton clothes and cover the body as much possible. It is the duty of parents to help their wards maintain a safe distance from harmful chemicals present in colours and device methods to enjoy more aesthetically and organically.

Artificial colours have strong acidic or alkaline component can cause irritant contact dermatitis even burning of area of contact which can even change texture or colour of the skin. Most dangerous of all are the colours with metallic component which feel like painting when applied over skin. Beside allergy they can be absorbed in the body and damage liver and kidney.

The real problem arises, when one must remove the colours after the festivities. People damage their skin in haste to remove the colour from skin with vigorous rubbing.  While some people prefer using soap or face wash, it may have ill-effects. It is necessary to wipe off the colour with moist cotton wool. We must avoid washing face with soap immediately, because soap has alkaline content and causes further dryness. Instead, we must use a cleansing cream or lotion, apply and massage it on the face before stepping out to play. Girls must tie their hair in a bun and also cover it with bandana or caps. Pregnant women and small children must avoid playing with colours. Vigorous activities and harmful colours might be harmful to the baby in the womb, and could even lead to premature delivery, miscarriage or birth defects. 

Researchers warn that Holi is no less an environmental hazard than Diwali. And they substantiate their claim with studies that show colours have an adverse impact on the water and soil. These colours are highly structured polymers and are very difficult to decompose biologically, which also prove to be threat to human health and to the flora and fauna in the long run.

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