Girl Planting seeds

The dangers of modern magic

Today, many of these time-worn cures remain popular around the globe, but in some countries, traditional healers have extended their arsenal to include not only nature’s gifts, but the products of human industry, amongst them an oily liquid, clear to yellow in colour with neither smell nor taste, that often spills or leaks from electrical equipment.  “It’s believed that if you apply the oil all over your body, lightning won’t strike you,” Constance van Zuydam, health and safety specialist at the Eswatini Electricity Company, says.  “It’s used as cream to cure diseases. Tradition says that instead of going to the doctor, you can use the oil and your wounds will heal faster. Illnesses from worms to swelling or even a limp are all believed to be cured by it.”  These ‘magic’ oils are Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)—a group of industrial chemicals that have been banned across much of the world since the 1980s due to their acute toxicity. They are carcinogenic and have been linked to developmental disorders in children—and no antidote or specific treatments exist for chronic exposure. They’re also the basis for a thriving black market around Africa, where they are stolen from both active and decommissioned electrical transformers for use as medicine, fuel and even cooking oil.  Read more...



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