Mumbai: FDA unaware of toxic levels in Holi colours being sold in markets

Mumbai: The festival of Holi is just two days away and still there is no clarity whether the colours, which are being sold in the market, are safe and without any toxic chemicals. In other words, the citizens will have to play Holi at their own risk, thanks to the Food and Drugs Administration, which seems to be in a deep slumber.

Surprisingly, the FDA, which is tasked with ensuring that not a single adulterated colour should reach the market, is unaware of the toxicity in the colours that are being sold in the markets this year. Moreover, the regulatory body does not even know the parameters it needs to check, for ensuring toxic-free colours. The FDA, for the sake of it, has issued a public advisory warning people about spurious colours.

“We will also write to the Central Drugs Standards Control Organisation and ask them to clarify whether the issue is indeed under our jurisdiction, and on what basis can we take action against those who do not follow the norms,” said a senior official. The only test that can be performed to check the ingredients of a colour is the toxicity test, which is conducted at a Dadar-based lab of the BMC. “We are ready to examine the colour samples but the problem is we do not know what the safety benchmarks are,” said a senior official.

This has been known to the officers, points out an activist. “How do they expect the central body to provide them all the parameters within two days,” said Dr Sudhir Mishra, a health activist. The coloured powders used during Holi are known to contain poisonous chemicals like lead oxide, copper sulphate, aluminium bromide, copper, mercury, toxic asbestos and silica dust. “We make sure colours used are harmless for which we conduct several tests, including a formaldehyde test (for high toxicity), a skin irritation test, etcetera,” said a manufacturer.

“The ingredients used most commonly in dry powders can cause micro-cuts on the skin, thus exposing it to various microbes and allergens and causing reactions,” said Dr Sharmila Patil, consultant dermatologist from Fortis hospital. Going by this, it would be not wrong to say that next year, too, citizens will have to play Holi at their own risk.

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