Red alert on green this Holi

It might be herbal or natural, but green is still the most toxic colour in the Holi spectrum, reports Neha Mehta.

india Updated: Mar 12, 2006 18:35 IST
Neha Mehta

This Holi, it will be a good idea not to go green.

According to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), green is the most toxic colour in the Holi spectrum -— even the 'natural' or 'herbal' varieties.

A team led by ocular pharmacologist T Velpandian of AIIMS's RP Centre for Opthalmic Sciences, collected 'natural' samples of green colour from markets at INA, Yusuf Sarai and Sarojini Nagar on Friday.

Of these, 60 per cent tested positive for the highly toxic 'malachite green', an industrial dye banned in several countries due to its carcinogenic properties. (The AIIMS team, however, has labelled the natural colour brands advertised by the environment ministry, as safe.)

There appears to be no government regulation on Holi colours, since they don't fall under either the category of 'drugs' or 'cosmetics'; even the Bureau of Indian Standards does not standardise them.

The RP Centre started studying the ocular toxicity of Holi colours in 1994, under its chief Supriyo Ghose.

And last year, the AIIMS team embarked on a one-year study, collecting green and bluish-green colours from various Delhi markets. The results were alarming.

"Though a significant number of these colours were sold as herbal or natural, the concentrations of malachite green varied from 0.3 per cent to 88 per cent," says Dr Velpandian.

The study also showed that these colours caused severe ocular toxicity (pain or irritation to the eye) because of malachite green.

Last Holi, 60 per cent of the patients reporting to AIIMS's eye emergency unit came with ocular toxicity caused by these colours. Malachite green was confirmed in 66.6 per cent of these cases.

"In extreme cases, ocular toxicity can lead to loss of vision due to secondary complications," adds Dr Velpandian.

First Published: Mar 12, 2006 16:07 IST