Shameful Scam: Drinking Sodium Chlorite Products as a Cure for Autism
Can drinking a chlorine dioxide bleach solution cure children of autism? There is no evidence that it can. Parents of autistic children, however, are being targeted by deceptive online ads for “Miracle Mineral Solution,” “Master Mineral Solution,” and similar products marketed with false claims of curing autism. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a recent warning about these products, noting that ingesting them has made consumers sick and can even lead to death.
No Cure for Autism Spectrum Disorder
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website states “There are no medications that can cure ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) or treat their core symptoms. However, there are medications that can help some people with ASD function better.” These may help “manage high energy levels, inability to focus, depression, or seizures,” for example, according to CDC.
As many as one-third of parents of children with ASD may have tried so-called complementary and alternative medicine treatments, notes CDC. These are very controversial and may include special diets, and treatments such as chelation therapy, which is used to remove metals from the blood. CDC states up to 10% of parents trying complementary and alternative medicine treatments may be using a potentially dangerous one. Bleach solutions taken internally fall into that category. A simple rule applies here: medical treatments should not be undertaken without first consulting the patient’s doctor.
Chlorine Dioxide: A Long-standing, Cruel Autism Hoax
The FDA first warned consumers about the bleach solution hoax in 2010, but as the agency reported, the products “are still being promoted on social media and sold online by many independent distributors.” False claims, according to FDA, include the statement that when the product is mixed with citric acid, it is “an antimicrobial, antiviral, and antibacterial liquid that is a remedy for autism, cancer, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, flu, and other conditions.” In fact, when consumers ingest the product after preparing it according to label directions, they may experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and symptoms of severe dehydration. The product label states that vomiting and diarrhea are common after ingesting the product and notes, unconscionably, that such reactions are evidence the product is working!
The product is a water solution of sodium chlorite. Label directions instruct the user to mix the solution with citric acid, the type of acid found in lemon and lime juice, before drinking. A chemical reaction between the sodium chlorite and acid produces chlorine dioxide. This chemical compound is a gas at room temperature. It is used commonly and at appropriately safe levels for drinking water disinfection, food and beverage processing, paper processing and medical instrument sterilization. Chlorine dioxide is not recognized, however, as an approved treatment for any medical condition. Chlorine dioxide is sometimes confused with household laundry bleach, which is a water solution of sodium hypochlorite. Neither product should ever be taken internally. Period.
The promoters of these “miracle” cures shamefully exploit parental concerns for their own gain. Parents of autistic children, beware, and remember that as FDA points out, using these unproven and dangerous products may cause a delay in other treatments that have been shown to be safe and effective.
Chris Wiant, MPH, PhD, is president and CEO of the Caring for Colorado Foundation. He is also chair of the Water Quality & Health Council and a member of the National Drinking Water Advisory Council.