Here bleach is being used to clean a shoe. Note the protective gloves. Photographer: Kevin Coughlin. Bloomberg News.

Last I checked, this is the typical warning on a bleach bottle: “Keep out of reach of children. DANGER: Corrosive.” But some parents are reportedly getting their kids to drink the same chemicals found in industrial bleach in an attempt to cure them of autism.

WTH? No, MMS. MMS stands for Miracle Mineral Supplement or Miracle Mineral Solution or Master Mineral Solution. Fox 59 in Indianapolis, Indiana, on Monday reported that a father has claimed that his wife tried MMS as an autism “treatment” on their child and that the Department of Child Services has since removed their child from their home. The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department is currently investigating the situation. This certainly isn’t the first time we’ve heard of people trying to use MMS for autism. Last month Tom Porter reported for Newsweek that British police have been investigating similar cases in England.

What is in MMS besides supposedly “miracles”? Take a look at this description of MMS in a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) press release on the sentencing of a man who was charged with selling MMS:

MMS is a mixture of sodium chlorite and water. Sodium chlorite is an industrial chemical used as a pesticide, for hydraulic fracturing and for wastewater treatment.  Sodium chlorite cannot be sold for human consumption, and suppliers of the chemical include a warning sheet stating that it can cause potentially fatal side effects if swallowed.

According to the press release, the man had “instructed consumers to combine MMS with citric acid to create chlorine dioxide, add water and drink the resulting mixture.” The press release continued by saying that “chlorine dioxide is a potent agent used to bleach textiles, among other industrial applications.”

Assuming that you are not a textile that needs to be bleached, why then should you drink anything that contains this chemical? Well, according to some videos on YouTube, The MMS Testimonials Database, and some sites on the Internet, MMS can be used to treat a wide range of maladies (such as acne, cancer, malaria, anal fistula, and autism) that typically require very different care and treatments. (If your doctor asks, “were you the one with the acne or the anal fistula,” you may want to make sure that your doctor is paying enough attention to you.) Here’s an ABC Good Morning America segment on MMS:

According to Todd Drezner writing for the HuffPost, the MMS for autism claims began at the 2012 edition of the AutismOne conference, which Drezner described as a “one-stop shop for parents looking for alternative treatments for autism.” In that conference, Kerri Rivera, the Director Clínica Autism02 in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico delivered a presentation on “MMS and Autism Recovery.” She described chlorine dioxide as the active chemical in MMS therapy and included a slide that stated that “autism is made up of pathogens: virus, bacteria, parasites, Candida, heavy metals, inflammation, and food allergies.”

That’s pretty darn non-specific and a bit like saying that autism is made up of stuff. Moreover, doctors don’t usually use the word “made up” and say “oh, your flu is made up of viruses” or “your diarrhea is made up of bacteria” or “my treatment for you is made up.” The slide also claimed that “MMS kills pathogens and neutralizes heavy metals, as well as reduces inflammation.” 

Searching PubMed today for “chlorine dioxide” and “autism” yielded zero scientific studies. However, the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s PubChem database lists warnings such as the following for chlorine dioxide:

  • Causes severe skin burns and eye damage 
  • Fatal if inhaled 
  • Toxic if swallowed
  • Causes severe skin burns and eye damage
  • Causes damage to organs
  • May cause harm to breast-fed children
  • May damage fertility or the unborn child 
  • May cause harm to breast-fed children

That’s a lot of damage. Oh, and chlorine dioxide also is very toxic to aquatic life and can make fires burn faster. Does this sound like something you should be giving kids?

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