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Jim Humble, bleach salesman


You wouldn’t think that the FDA would have to warn the public against drinking industrial strength bleach, but that is the world we are living in. They write:

Miracle Mineral Solution has not been approved by the FDA for any use, but these products continue to be promoted on social media as a remedy for treating autism, cancer, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and flu, among other conditions. However, the solution, when mixed, develops into a dangerous bleach which has caused serious and potentially life-threatening side effects.

They also warn:

The FDA recently received new reports of people experiencing severe vomiting, severe diarrhea, life-threatening low blood pressure caused by dehydration and acute liver failure after drinking these products.

This is not the first such warning from the FDA. The first one was in 2010. The warning is essentially the same as the 2019 version, and it is amazing that almost a decade later this blatant and dangerous snake oil is still around. David has been following the story on SBM for years, most recently in April of this year.

So how do we explain the persistence of not just useless snake oil, but seriously harmful snake oil? There is a clue, I think, in the origins of MMS – Jim Humble and his Genesis II Church of Health and Healing. This is an excellent example of the mixing of religion with alternative medicine. I and others here have long argued that this is a prominent feature of CAM, often overlooked by those not sufficiently familiar with it as a phenomenon. CAM, in fact, is far closer to religion than it is to science, although there is a lot of variability as it is a broad and eclectic category.

Take, for example, Reiki, a form of healing or therapeutic touch. Here is a definition from reiki.org:

When seeking a definition from a more spiritual context, we find that Rei can be defined as the Higher Intelligence that guides the creation and functioning of the universe. Rei is a subtle wisdom that permeates everything, both animate and inanimate. This subtle wisdom guides the evolution of all creation ranging from the unfolding of galaxies to the development of life. On a human level, it is available to help us in times of need and to act as a source of guidance in our lives. Because of its infinite nature, it is all knowing. Rei is also called God and has many other names depending on the culture that has named it.

Yep, religion. Sometimes modern practitioners try to strip the clear religious underpinnings of a treatment from its description, depending on who they are selling it to, so they may just refer to “energy” but as soon as you scratch below the surface, what you find is a spiritual and faith-based practice. The chiropractic concept of innate intelligence is similarly spiritual in nature. DD Palmer combined Mesmer’s notions of an “animal magnetism” with the spiritualism of his day. He felt he had discovered a new force of nature, and that force was decidedly vitalistic and spiritual.

The combination of religion and CAM is more than just historical and philosophical – there is a practical purpose here as well, which partly explains why MMS is still a problem a decade after the FDA first warned about it. On the Church of Health and Healing website they are still “selling” MMS:

Welcome to the Genesis II Church sacramental provider website!
All sacraments and products are to be acquired by donation.
The Genesis II Church is a free church under common law and is not under commercial law.
Please enjoy our easy-to-use donation website!

You see why I put “selling” is scare quotes. They are claiming that this snake oil is a “sacrament” that they offer to their members for a “donation”. They emphasize that, according to them, they are operating under common law, and not commercial law. This is all a blatant end-run around the FDA, the FTC, and charges of fraud.

The FDA isn’t buying it, but it does seem to have slowed them down. Humble has also fled to Mexico, which is often used as a haven for quacks and charlatans who want to continue to sell their snake oil, just out of reach of American regulators. Humble has responded to the FDA warnings in completely predictable fashion:

Humble blasted back at the FDA, saying they “should get on and tell everyone how poisonous the FDA-approved drugs are,” according to a video on his site.

Humble has also pulled another stunt often used by medical con-artists – asking those who believe they have been helped or cured by the dubious treatment to call the media, or solicit help from politicians. There is a common pattern of behavior – make millions selling snake oil, then use the money to influence regulations and hide from regulators, and unleash testimonials from those who have already been conned. As an added bonus, hide behind religion. It’s sad how consistently these strategies can work.

From my perspective it seems like Humble is a heartless con-artist who is selling dangerous snake oil to vulnerable people and claiming it will cure serious diseases like cancer and HIV, and conditions like autism. Why is this man not in prison? Why is he still selling industrial bleach as a healing potion on his website? What more evidence do we need that the FDA does not have the proper authority and tools to protect the public from this kind of dangerous snake-oil? They keep releasing warnings to the public, because they can’t simply shut this down.

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Posted by Steven Novella

Founder and currently Executive Editor of Science-Based Medicine Steven Novella, MD is an academic clinical neurologist at the Yale University School of Medicine. He is also the host and producer of the popular weekly science podcast, The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe, and the author of the NeuroLogicaBlog, a daily blog that covers news and issues in neuroscience, but also general science, scientific skepticism, philosophy of science, critical thinking, and the intersection of science with the media and society. Dr. Novella also has produced two courses with The Great Courses, and published a book on critical thinking - also called The Skeptics Guide to the Universe.