Glowing Peril: The Magical Glitter That Poisoned a City

Cautionary Tales with Tim Harford

24-11-2023 • 35 mins

In Goiânia, Brazil, a junk dealer acquires an old medical device from two scrap-metal scavengers. The device itself isn't useful, but it comes with precious lead which will fetch him good money. There's something else inside the device, too: a curious, crystal-like substance that glows bright blue in the dark.

At first, the dealer is mesmerized by it: he wants to turn it into jewelry for his wife. But, everyone who comes into contact with the magical glitter seems to get sick. His own family succumbs to nausea and vomiting. A doctor suggests food poisoning - but this isn't like any food poisoning they've ever known before. And soon, the whole city is contaminated.

No-one saw this horrifying radiation accident coming. Should they have?

For a full list of sources, please see the show notes at timharford.com.

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