I’ve been at this blogging thing for over seven years, over four of which I’ve been honored to be a part of this particular group blog dedicated to promoting science as a basis for rational medical therapies. For three or four years before that seven year period began, I had honed my chops on Usenet in a group known as misc.health.alternative (m.h.a.). So, although I haven’t been at this as long as Steve Novella, I’ve been at it plenty long, which led me to think I had seen just about everything when it comes to pseudoscience and quackery.
As usual whenever I think I’ve seen it all, I was wrong.
I’m referring to something that has been mentioned once before on this blog, namely something called “Miracle Mineral Solution” (MMS). I must admit that after a brief reaction of “WTF?” I basically forgot about it. I shouldn’t have; I should have looked into it in more detail at the time. Fortunately, being a blogger means never having to say you’re sorry (at least about not having caught a form of quackery the first time it made big news), and fortunately MMS was brought to my attention in the context of an area of quackery that I frequently blog about. You’ll see what I mean in a minute.
What happened is that MMS was brought to my attention again by a couple of readers and, not remembering it other than vaguely, I did what I always do when confronted with these situations. I Googled, and I found what I needed to know. Basically, MMS is 28% sodium chlorite in distilled water. In essence, MMS is equivalent to industrial strength bleach. Proponents recommend diluting MMS in either water or a food acid, such as lemon juice, which results in the formation of chlorine dioxide.
MMS was originally sold by a man named Jim Humble, who claims that MMS can be used to successfully treat AIDS, hepatitis A,B and C, malaria, herpes, TB, most cancer and many more of mankind’s worse diseases. He even goes so far as to claim that 5,000,000 people have used MMS and that “hundreds of thousands” of lives have been saved. Unfortunately, it appears that for this function Jim Humble uses more concentrated MMS—a lot more concentrated. More horrifically, Humble bestows his “blessings” on poor people in Third World countries like Haiti, treating them like this:
We gotta give him just enough [industrial bleaching agent] that he don’t get sick but he’s on the edge of getting sick! So we’ve got to keep him just on the very edge and therefore it’s pretty intense for cancer, he needs to take it 4/5 times a day, small amounts instead of a big batch.
When people leave here they really know how to use MMS for all things, skin diseases of all kinds, colon problems, how to regenerate the liver, how to treat brain cancers, how to treat babies and pregnant women, and how to treat animals from mice to elephants. You will be personally taking MMS while here, spraying your skin with powerful solutions of MMS (but won’t hurt you), spraying others’ skin and hair. You will learn to use sprays, baths, IV solutions, MMS gas, soak the feet, and most importantly, the new protocols that in the country of Malawi have cured more than 800 people of HIV plus 40 cancer cases, 50 of feet and leg numbness, 3 heart disease cases, 13 diabetes cases, and many other diseases and problems.
Yes, you read it right. Jim Humble likes to go down to Haiti and the Dominican Republic and subject the poor there to his industrial bleach miracle cure. Unfortunately, he’s not alone in subjecting vulnerable populations to this “miracle cure.”
I learned that because it’s that time of year again.
Regular readers know what I’m talking about. Or, at least, they will know if I tell them I’m referring to a major meeting of the antivaccine movement. They know that sometime around the Memorial Day weekend every year, usually beginning a couple of days before the extended weekend and into the weekend itself, there lands in the Chicago area a quackfest of such unrelenting quackitude that it has to be seen to be believed. Basically, it’s the antivaccine and autism “biomed” movement Woodstock, except that it happens every year. Any and every quack and die-hard antivaccinationist who still believes believes against all evidence that vaccines cause autism is usually there. Anyone who’s anyone in the antivaccine movement was almost certainly there over this Memorial Day weekend (at least that part of the antivaccine movement that aligns itself with Generation Rescue/Age of Autism, anyway).
This year, as the Memorial Day weekend approached, and the Autism One conference started up, I wondered whether or not I should bother with it. I have, after all, been covering it every year for several years. It’s become predictable. Every year, I know that there will be quackery. There will likely be one or more skeptics trying to attend and, if they are recognized, getting kicked out to minimize the chances that a science-based or skeptical viewpoint about what goes on at Autism One will be published or posted anywhere. I didn’t know if anyone had planned on showing up at Autism One this year (although I do hope that someone did). Then it was pointed out to me that MMS would feature prominently at Autism One this year, and so it did. Yes, as one of my readers pointed out, MMS was featured in a talk at Autism One yesterday by a woman named Kerri Rivera, who boasts of 38 Children Recovered in 20 months:
This presentation will outline the approach Kerri has used successfully to help recover 38 children from a diagnosis of Autism. She will explain how MMS (chlorine dioxide) has become the “missing piece” to the autism puzzle for so many of the families that she works with. MMS is available worldwide, and is extremely cost effective, bringing recovery in reach of all families, despite economic or geographic limitations. This presentation seeks to prove that Autism truly is curable.
So let me emphasize this once again. Autism One, whose organizers claim that their conference is “all about the science,” featured a talk by a woman whose preferred form of therapy, besides hyperbaric oxygen, is to subject autistic children to industrial bleach in the deluded belief that she can “recover” autism with it. Rivera runs a clinic in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico that she calls AutismO2 Clinica Hyperbarica. If her website is any indication, Rivera gives autistic children MMS by mouth and by enema. (Yes, she subjects autistic children to bleach enemas.) Here’s the protocol:
10-15 drops MMS enabled and 500 mL water
In the colon for 12 – 30 minutes
Use pipette and syringe
Is applied 2 or 3 times per week
Elsewhere, we see this:
Kerri will be discussing recent protocol developments around MMS and Autism, such as loading the dose, the baby bottle, the baking soda mix, enemas, baths, and how to handle a fever.
So let’s see. From my reading, it appears to me that proponents of MMS not only give MMS to autistic children orally, but bathe them in it and gives them enemas with it. Early on, as I was researching this post, I couldn’t find video of the actual Autism One presentation. So I went for the next “best” (if you can call it that) thing. A little Googling led me to this webinar about using MMS to treat autism. It features Jim Humble (the originator of MMS quackery) himself! Predictably, it starts with a “medical disclaimer” (i.e., quack Miranda warning) and then devolves from there:
And here, as part of the same webinar, we see Rivera explaining how to administer the MMS by continually upping the dose:
The latter video is utterly appalling. There really is no better way to describe it. In it, Rivera describes how, as you up the dose, you’ll see the autistic child do more stimming, which makes me wonder whether it’s because the child is feeling ill, leading him to show more autistic behaviors. Rivera, apparently believing in MMS< thinks this increase in stimming behaviors is a good thing, indicating that the treatment is working. She also discusses how the autistic children subjected to this therapy will develop diarrhea, but that that's OK as long as it's "detox diarrhea" (whatever that is supposed to mean). She even talks about these children having a Herxheimer reaction, which is sometimes seen after the initiation of antibacterials for tick borne relapsing fever. It was first describe as a reaction to the treatment of syphilis with penicillin and is also seen after treatment of other diseases caused by spirochetes, such as Lyme disease and leptospirosis. She talks about the “72-2” protocol, which, if you look at the website, involves giving MMS every two hours for 72 hours. She also recommends “fever therapy” and argues that it’s a good thing that MMS can cause fevers because it’s “waking up the immune system” which realizes that there’s “autism in the house.” She also exults about how she “loves the enemas” so much for autism.
Somehow, I doubt that autistic children love them as much as Rivera does. Maybe Rivera should try giving herself a bleach enema if she thinks it’s so great.
Next, take a gander at the handout that accompanies Rivera’s talk at Autism One. After the predictable Shopenhauer quote about truth “passing through three stages” (whose use is to me one of the surest signs I’m dealing with a quack or crank) her presentation includes a lot of the same nonsense that is touted in the video about bleach being safe and effective. There’s more stuff about “fever therapy” and a lot of stuff about getting rid of parasites, which, if you believe Rivera, MMS does in conjunction with all the other pseudoscience she promotes. She even promotes in essence giving a hot bleach bath (“to tolerance,” as she puts it) along with her fever therapy. Biologists in particular will laugh (or cry) at her misunderstanding of electrochemistry. It’s madness. And what’s her evidence? What do you think it is? It’s nothing more than unconvincing anecdotes.
Finally, let’s look at the actual presentation at Autism One itself. I was able to locate the presentation after it was pointed out to me that the videos from the live stream were being saved and were still accessible online. Here is the video for Rivera’s presentation. Her talk doesn’t start until approximately 4:20:
And part 2:
And part 3:
And part 4:
From the video, we learn that Kerri Rivera was trained as a DAN! (Defeat Autism Now!) practitioner (even though she is not a doctor) and charged by Bernie Rimland herself to translate DAN! protocols into Spanish and spread them throughout Latin America, like a preacher of woo. She’s also the director of a “clinic” even though she is apparently not a doctor or health care professional. Amusingly, during her presentation, when she talks about the “three stages” of truth in the quote attributed (likely mistakenly) to Schopenhauer, she opines that she’s still waiting for MMS to reach stage 3 (being accepted as self-evident). Apparently it never occurred to her that quackery never makes it to stage 3. It usually gets stuck at stage 1 or stage 2—and rightly so! Thus, MMS will always be stuck at stages 1 and 2 because MMS is rank quackery. But I digress…
One claim that stands out is this:
0.95 volts cannot harm body tissue. Human tissue has a voltage that can withstand greater than 1.28 volts (the oxidation potential of oxygen), thus .95 volts of chlorine dioxide.
This is silly in the extreme. Parasites, viruses, and bacteria, which chlorine dioxide suppresses, are made of the same organic molecules (protein, lipids, carbohydrates, nucleic acids, etc.) that human tissues are made of:
How does disinfection by chlorine dioxide work?
Substances of organic nature in bacterial cells react with chlorine dioxide, causing several cellular processes to be interrupted. Chlorine dioxide reacts directly with amino acids and the RNA in the cell. It is not clear whether chlorine dioxide attacks the cell structure or the acids inside the cell. The production of proteins is prevented. Chlorine dioxide affects the cell membrane by changing membrane proteins and fats and by prevention of inhalation.
When bacteria are eliminated, the cell wall is penetrated by chlorine dioxide. Viruses are eliminated in a different way; chlorine dioxide reacts with peptone, a water-soluble substance that originates from hydrolisis of proteins to amino acids. Chlorine dioxide kills viruses by prevention of protein formation. Chlorine dioxide is more effective against viruses than chlorine or ozone.
Of the oxidizing biocides, chlorine dioxide is the most selective oxidant. Both ozone and chlorine are much more reactive than chlorine dioxide, and they will be consumed by most organic compounds. Chlorine dioxide however, reacts only with reduced sulphur compounds, secondary and tertiary amines, and some other highly reduced and reactive organics. This allows much lower dosages of chlorine dioxide to achieve a more stable residual than either chlorine or ozone. Chlorine dioxide, generated properly (all chlorine dioxide is not created equal), can be effectively used in much higher organic loading than either ozone or chlorine because of its selectivity.
As usual, it’s a matter of the dose making the poison. For example, the EPA sets the oral RfD (reference dose) for chlorine dioxide at 3 x 10-2 mg kg-1 d-1, which, for the average prototypical 70 kg man would be 2.1 mg per day. Rivera cites FDA regulations (21 CFR 173.300) regarding allowable levels of chlorine dioxide in food but neglects to point out what those allowed levels are:
The additive may be used as an antimicrobial agent in water used to wash fruits and vegetables that are not raw agricultural commodities in an amount not to exceed 3 ppm residual chlorine dioxide as determined by Method 4500-ClO2 E, referenced in paragraph (a)(2) of this section, or an equivalent method. Treatment of the fruits and vegetables with chlorine dioxide shall be followed by a potable water rinse or by blanching, cooking, or canning.
In other words, the amount that is permissible to use is low, and the fruit and the FDA requires that the food be rinsed with water afterwards or cooked so that the ClO2 goes away. This is a different situation than taking increasing concentrations of MMS based on adding drops of 28% solution of sodium hypochlorite designed to generate ClO2.
Elswwhere I have seen claims that the target concentration for MMS is 1 ppm and that tap water can have up to 0.8 ppm chlorine dioxide. If that were the case, then way bother with MMS? Just give your kid tap water to cure autism! Of course, it’s not the case. All one has to do is to look at Rivera’s protocol. Given that chlorine dioxide is approved in drinking water up to a maximum concentration of 0.8 ppm (or 0.8 mg/L), if a child took in 1-2 L per day of water (the amount depends on weight), then that would be around 0.8 to 1.6 mg of chlorine dioxide per day. Rivera’s recommended protocol involves working the dose up to 8 to 24 drops per day (1 to 3 drops administered 8 times a day), depending on the child’s weight. Now, a drop of MMS contains roughly 10 mg of sodium chlorite, which generates around 8 mg of chlorine dioxide. This means giving children between 64 and 192 mg of chlorine dioxide per day, depending on the child’s weight. That’s up to 120 times what even an older child could reasonably expect to be exposed to through drinking tap water. And, of course, this neglects the fact that most children don’t drink just tap water; usually they drink other things and don’t drink nearly 1 to 2 liters of tap water in a day. Under real world conditions, the math would work out even worse than what I’ve estimated. Also don’t forget that Rivera recommends giving MMS as an enema. To a child—any child—receiving an enema is likely to be a traumatic experience. For a child with autism, who tends to be more sensitive to various stimuli than neurotypical children, it could be sheer torture, even if there was nothing other than water in the enema.
Particularly amusing to me is the segment where Rivera writes that MMS is not snake oil. Her reasoning? Snake oil doesn’t recover children from autism in 21 months. Of course, she didn’t actually provide any actual evidence that she “recovered” even a single child from autism. She does however, claim that autism is “made up of pathogens,” including viruses, bacteria, parasites, candida, heavy metals, inflammation, and food allergies. Of course, heavy metals, inflammation, and food allergies are not pathogens, but then clearly biology and biochemistry are not Rivera’s strong suits. In any case, she claims that “40 more” children “lost their diagnosis” in the last 21 months. No control group. No solid evidence that these children were actually autistic to begin with, no evidence that MMS had anything to do with their progress, if progress it was.
In retrospect, I should have figured that, if there’s any form of quackery out there, someone, somewhere will be using it on autistic children. MMS is, of course, no different. Two days later, I’m also still amazed that I didn’t know more about MMS. After all, I’ve been looking at quackery of various sorts for over a decade now. I guess that just means there’s always something new to learn and some new woo to hear about—unfortunately. True, many of them are variations on a theme, basically the same old nonsense with a fresh coat of paint slapped on it to make it attractive to the unwary. True, each new generation of quacks appropriates old ideas and tarts them up with the newest science-y sounding terminology of the era in which they operate.
This is also the second time that I’ve seen autism quacks subjecting autistic children to what is, in essence, potentially nasty industrial chemicals. A couple of years ago, disgraced chemistry professor and mercury warrior Boyd Haley pumped autistic children full of an industrial chelator, claiming it was a “supplement.” Ultimately, Haley drew the attention of the FDA, which shut him down. Now, we’re seeing quacks douse autistic children in bleach, pump their colons full of it, and feed it to them until they start to have fevers and diarrhea, believing that the diarrhea and fever are evidence that the bleach is working to reverse autism. The diarrhea and fever might well be working to do something, but reversing autism is not part of that something. Making children sick is. Here’s a typical anecdote:
My 14YO son has autism. I’ve been treating him with a parasite cleanse system for 1.5 years (5 days on, 2 days off). He’s made some remarkable improvements, but every time I try to wean him off the cleanse, the parasite symptoms flare up. He is nonverbal and fairly low-functioning, so I don’t get any feedback from him as to how he is feeling. Last week, I started him on 1 drop of MMS then upped the dose to 1 drop, 2x a day this week. After about 4 days at 2 drops/day, he vomited once and had diarrhea all day. I am assuming it is the MMS. I decided to drop down to 1 drop/day again until he gets beyond this. He tends to have loose stools anyway, which I am guessing is related to this ongoing battle with the parasites. His gut tends to be very sensitive to anything I give him, so I have to go very carefully with anything new like the MMS. I am still giving him the other parasite cleanse (Systemic Formulas VRM 1-4). I would love to hear anyone’s ideas or insight into this. I am working with a homeopath who has done extensive research into parasite cleanses, but she has not researched MMS. I’m looking to get my son beyond these parasites once and for all. My homeopath and her colleagues are autism experts and do consults with parents from around the world. They have found that the children with autism who are considered “tough nuts” tend to also be parasite kids. With their compromised immune systems, it is difficult to eradicate parasites.
There’s only one word for this: appalling. Actually, there’s another word for it, too: Quackery. Pure quackery.