Poisoned Holi

By Rajil Menon
Published: Wednesday 15 April 2009

80 children fall unconscious after playing festival of colours

jayalakshmi Kore, a six-year-old girl living with her parents in the central suburb of Ambernath, Thane, complained of stomach ache and fell unconscious after playing with colours on the day of Holi, March 11. She started frothing at the mouth and was rushed to a nearby hospital where doctors initially thought she was suffering from weakness. When other children from her neighbourhood, suffering similar symptoms, were brought in, the doctors realized the children must have accidentally ingested toxic colours.

About 80 children of different ages were rushed to hospitals in Thane and Mumbai that day. Dolly Gaur, a doctor who treated eight children admitted in Sion hospital, Mumbai, said the children were suffering from loose motions and had a bluish tongue. "We gave them intravenous fluids and discharged them after symptomatic treatment. The children are out of danger now," said Gaur.

Preliminary investigations by the police revealed the colours contained some toxic chemical, probably ingested by the children along with water or food. Four shopkeepers, found to have sold the poisonous colours, have been arrested. But the manufacturers are yet to be identified and brought to book. The Food and Drug Administration (fda) department, Mumbai, has sent the colours to the forensic laboratory to ascertain the nature of the chemicals used in them.

Jayalakshmi's parents said she reacted to the yellow colour that she played with. "My son fell sick after playing with blue colour," said Sunita Miskin, a 24-year-old woman in Khuntavli. Some other people in the locality said the colours were from local chemical factories. The police, however, have not identified them.

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