'CAN YOU IMAGINE?'
Why Is Amazon Endorsing a Ghastly Autism ‘Treatment?’
‘It’s Amazon promoting something that is not merely ineffective, but actively harmful and dangerous.’
Welcome to Debunker, a weekly breakdown of misleading (and sometimes flat-out wrong!) news from the worlds of science, health, and more—for Beast Inside members only.
Editor's Note: On Thursday, Amazon re-posted what appears to be a similar or same product as the Humble's Mineral Solution that was taken down earlier this week after The Daily Beast reached out to the company for comment. (Autism expert Steve Silberman says the new product appears to be “the same shit” as the old one.) The new product appears to have different packaging and is bigger than the original post with slightly less sodium chloride, but still contains the "Humble's Mineral Solution" label. The new product does not promise to be a potential autism cure. The Daily Beast has reached out to Amazon again for comment on its new posting.
Just a few weeks ago, Humble’s Mineral Solution (also known as Miracle Mineral Solution, or MMS) was adorned with the prized “Amazon’s Choice” label on the e-commerce site, promising “highly rated, well-priced products available to ship immediately.”
Although the product was marketed on Amazon as a water purifier, Humble’s Mineral Solution has long been promoted by creator Jim Humble as a treatment for conditions including autism, AIDS, diabetes, the flu, and more. Although Humble is careful to say that the product is not a “cure” on his website, he promises it will help treat these conditions by wiping alleged “pathogens” and “poisons” from the body, a claim that has caught on in private Facebook groups and online forums for parents of autistic children who believe that autism—a primarily genetic neurological disorder for which there is currently no cure—is caused by parasites.
But the FDA says otherwise. In 2010, it warned consumers that when used as directed, MMS becomes “an industrial bleach that can cause serious harm to health,” including nausea, vomiting, and severe dehydration, The Guardian reported at the time. Canadian health officials found the product so abhorrent that they prohibited the sale of MMS entirely.
The label drew public attention after it was spotted by Philippe Chouinard, a Canadian family physician who specializes in treating children with autism and ADHD. The product boasted the “Amazon’s Choice” designation at least until late November, when Chouinard tweeted a screenshot of the product’s page and condemned the retail giant.
“Amazon’s Choice??? Unf*ckingbelievable,” Chouinard wrote on Nov. 29. “Making money off of the suffering of autistic children who are being given Miracle Mineral Solution.”
“F*ck your disclaimers too, you know what this is @amazonca @amazon,” he added, referencing Amazon’s legal disclaimer that none of the product’s claims had been evaluated by the FDA, and that “None of the products or statements on this website are intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or condition.”
In the days following Chouinard’s tweet, the “Amazon’s Choice” label, likely generated by an algorithm, no longer appeared on the product’s page. Between Dec. 7 and Dec. 8, days after The Daily Beast reached out for comment, the product was pulled from Amazon's shelves entirely.
But advocates say that’s not good enough—and that the product never should have been sold or endorsed in the first place.
“It’s Amazon promoting something that is not merely ineffective, but actively harmful and dangerous,” Steve Silberman, author of Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity, told The Daily Beast. He explained that when the product, 28 percent sodium chlorite, is mixed with an acid as instructed, it becomes chlorine dioxide—or as we know it, industrial bleach.
“There are no approved medical indications for this substance,” Silberman added. “It’s very dangerous, people have definitely died, people have definitely gotten intestinal damage from this.”
The product wasn’t marketed explicitly on Amazon as a cure for any medical condition. The product description claims that the Miracle Mineral Solution should be used “for water purification only” and that “We do not offer, nor do we claim to offer to cure, prevent, diagnose, or treat any disease or condition,” according to a Dec. 20, 2017 copy of the product’s page captured by the Wayback Machine.
But Silberman and Chouinard say that’s a farce.
“The only official use is ‘as industrial bleach,’” Silberman said. “But who would have a tiny eye dropper of industrial bleach?”
Chouinard pointed out that in the comments section for the product, it’s clear that consumers are blatantly ignoring those disclaimers. One user, Regiane, wrote that “This kills parasites in our body and cures many diseases,” according to the December page. “MMS works and works very very well for all pathogenic diseases, flu, colds, malaria, fungus or mold problems,” opined Noneoftheabove.
“You can disclaim what you want," Chouinard said. “But at the end of the day, these comments are there.”
Chouinard also noted that by using the name “Humble’s Mineral Solution,” the products are inexorably tied with their creator, Jim Humble (who reportedly believes he is a billion-year-old god from the galaxy Andromeda and has started a church called Genesis II to promote MMS). Amazon’s “Frequently Bought Together” section recommended purchasing The Miracle Mineral Solution of the 21st Century 4th Edition, written by Humble, and another book called MMS Protocols: A User’s Guide.
Although neither book mentions autism specifically, they both espouse MMS’ purported health benefits. The cover of Humble’s book claims that the chlorine dioxide ion is “the most powerful killer of disease that has ever been known”; the User’s Guide claims that activated MMS will “safely obliterate pathogens in the body.” Humble’s book also advises readers, in bold, that “if you want to buy MMS for your own health you will have to go to the Internet and find someone selling MMS for water purification.”
On Humble’s website, he does claim that the product can be used to treat autism, writing that chlorine dioxide “has [been] proven to restore partial or full health to hundreds of thousands of people suffering from a wide range of disease, including cancer, diabetes, hepatitis A, B, C, Lyme disease, MRSA, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, HIV/AIDS, malaria, autism [...] erectile dysfunction and the list goes on.” Humble did not respond to The Daily Beast’s repeated requests for comment.
Other alternative medicine practitioners have repeated Humble’s claim that autism is caused by pathogens, and that MMS will help treat the condition by eradicating them. Kerri Rivera, who presented at Chicago’s AutismOne conference in 2012, claimed that within 20 months, 38 children “recover[ed]” from autism by using MMS. In her slides, Rivera explicitly asserts that “autism is made up of pathogens” and that “MMS kills pathogens.”
She recommended working up to 3 drops 8 times a day, and doing enemas two to three times each week. (After her seminar, the Illinois Attorney General subpoenaed Rivera, and she eventually signed an agreement not to present at conferences or sell products in the state). Rivera, whose book on MMS is still available on Amazon, did not respond to a request for comment. Neither Humble nor Rivera sell MMS on their websites, as of the time of publishing.
Silberman explained that claims such as Rivera’s took off in private Facebook groups and forums for parents of children with autism. “What’s really going on is that they’ve been offered so little hope…” he said. “There’s a lot of parents hoping that something will work for their kids. But the people selling this stuff are absolute vultures and vampires.”
IFL Science reports that one group, “MMS & CDS by Jim Humble & Andreas Kalcker,” at one time boasted at least 7,000 members. A 28-year-old mother in Indianapolis, who read about MMS in one such group, was arrested and had her child seized by child protective services this February after she allegedly put the product in her autistic daughter’s drinks.
“It’s truly horrible if you ever see any of this stuff,” Silberman said. “Because what happens is parents give their kids bleach and if they react badly—which, who wouldn’t?—and especially, let’s say you’re autistic and nonverbal, and you’re not able to express your discomfort... Can you imagine feeling this burning sensation in your gut or in your butt because your mom gave you a bleach enema? So these kids are in agony, and yet the parents tell each other that the agony that they’re going through is a necessary part of this treatment for autism.” As the FDA noted, this treatment can cause nausea and dehydration—but parents have also reported effects like blue lips, ear aches, and weakness in their children.
It gets worse. “The really gory stuff,” Silberman continued, “is when parents post pictures of literally intestinal tissue that has been shed by these children because it’s been basically burned off inside of their intestines, and then they claim ‘oh, it’s the parasite. It’s working.’”
Silberman wants parents to know that there is hope—but that it has nothing to do with MMS, or any kind of purported “treatment.”
“What parents need to know is that there is real hope for kids with autism, but it’s in seeking and finding support, peer mentoring, creating opportunities at school, fighting for their kids’ rights,” Silberman added. “Those are the authentic sources of hope for parents of autistic kids. Not these ghoulish quacks who prey on the community.”