A popular Hindu spring festival in India ended in tragedy this week, when poisoned paint used in the celebration killed one boy and injured hundreds of other children.
The problem occurred as children in a Mumbai neighborhood doused each other in colorful paint powders that apparently contained toxic dyes. The paint tossing is a popular ritual during Holi, the two-day Hindu Festival of Color celebrated each spring around the world.
|A display of colorful powders signals the annual arrival of Holi, the Hindu Festival of Colors, which is celebrated worldwide.|
A 13-year-old boy died and more than 200 children, most ages 3 to 15, were admitted to area hospitals with skin burns, shortness of breath and vomiting, reports said. Three girls were reported in intensive care, and doctors expressed concern about long-term health damage that is not yet detectable.
Initial speculation centered on poisoning from benzene, a carcinogenic chemical used in paints, leathers, dyes and gasoline. Police said leather tanners from a local dump may have become mixed in with colors that the children used to splash each other. The neighborhood is home to a major leather tanning industry.
Doctors noted that inhalation of such a toxin could dangerously reduce oxygen supply to parts of the body.
|Revelers enjoy a time-honored Holi tradition: showering one another with colored paint powder. In one Mumbai neighborhood this year, the dye was apparently tainted.|
A five-member committee was appointed to investigate, and toxicology testing was underway.
Health authorities have been trying for a decade to crack down on dangerous chemicals often found in the brightly colored pigments used on Holi. These have included lead, mercuric sulfide, Prussian blue and silica.