Chemical colours may affect your health

Colours for Holi, which is celebrated in Bangalore today. — Photo: Sampath Kumar G.P.

Colours for Holi, which is celebrated in Bangalore today. — Photo: Sampath Kumar G.P.  

BANGALORE, MARCH 24. The festival of colours could harm your health seriously if you are not careful about the source of the colours you are playing Holi with. Two years ago, a girl of five partially lost her sight in one eye after being deluged with colours and is still under treatment.

In recent years colours made from potentially harmful chemicals, some of them carcinogenic, are being sold during the festival and widely used by people. The silver colour, widely popular, for instance, is prepared with aluminium bromide, which can impair eyesight and in large amounts, is carcinogenic.

With more awareness about the harmful effects of chemical colours, people are beginning to turn to herbal colours, traditionally used till shops began promoting other types of colours.

You can now get red colour powder made from red sandalwood (rakta chandan), mixed with rose petals. Just as colourful and totally harmless and perhaps, even good for your skin. Green colour of the organic variety is made from "mehendi" powder mixed with maida, kewra essence and "chameli" flowers; fragrant and easily washed off. Yellow powder could be from good old turmeric, perhaps mixed with gram flour or from marigold flowers.

Kaya, a speciality skin clinic, is offering such organic colours through its outlets in Koramangala, MG Road, Indiranagar and Sadashivanagar. Chances are you could find similar Holi colours in shops selling traditional medicinal herbs. Unfortunately, only a few are still in business and you have to search for them.

According to Revathi, lecturer in the Dermatology Department of Victoria Hospital, the best is to avoid over exposure to colours, and to wash them off quickly afterwards, you should apply emollients such as paraffin oil or vaseline, or even plain coconut oil on the face and other exposed portion of the body, before going out to play Holi. "The colours should be removed from the skin as soon as possible and not left unwashed for a long time,'' Dr. Revathi said. Wearing long sleeved shirts and tops can minimise exposure to colours, sprinkled or sprayed.

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