One of the most horrifying forms of quackery is one that is sometimes called the “autism biomed” movement. It’s a movement that I’ve been writing about since very early in the history of this blog. Basically, “autism biomed” rests on the belief that autism (and should be) treated for cure; it’s called “biomed” because the quacks promoting these treatments believe that they understand the biology of autism and declare it a “biomedical” condition for which they have the biomedical correction. They are, of course deluded. Much, but by no means anywhere near all, of autism biomed quackery rests on the scientifically discredited idea that vaccines cause autism. More to the point, autism biomed includes treatments like chelation therapy, megadoses of vitamin C, “detoxification,” GCMAF, homeopathy, and nearly every imaginable form of quackery, including, for example, and the use of Lupron to suppress testosterone and in essence chemically castrate autistic children while misdiagnosing them with “precocious puberty.” That last one one, of course, originated with autism quacks Mark and David Geier. Autism biomed franchises quackery and hijacks legitimate research and turns it into quackery. Indeed, there was an organization dedicated to autism biomed quackery that has since morphed into something else. If there’s one thing you must understand about autism biomed, its that its culture is based on the idea that one should try, try, try, and never give up. If one form of quackery doesn’t “work,” the answer is not to give up and turn to science-based medicine or the radical idea that they should perhaps accept their autistic child for who he is, but rather to try ever more radical quackery.
Tbis brings me to one of the most vile, if not the most vile, of the modalities used in autism biomed is Miracle Mineral Supplement (MMS), which is in reality a form of bleach. I’ve described over the years how the cult of MMS, led by the Genesis II Church, its founder Jim Humble, and its secular celebrant Kerri Rivera, the last of whom single-handedly brought bleach enemas to the autism biomed movement. I’ve described how quacks have induced parents to feed bleach to their children and give their children bleach enemas. Where do parents find out about this quackery?
On the Internet, of course.
Back when I started blogging about these things, Facebook was in its infancy, and Twitter didn’t exist. So parents used blogs and formed discussion forums to discuss autism biomed quackery. With the rise of Facebook, this became quite a lot easier. Parents set up private (or even secret) groups and used them to discuss their quackery, free from the prying eyes of skeptics concerned about their activity trying to find out what they were up to. Fortunately, there are women like Melissa Eaton and Amanda Seigler, who have taken the art of being moles in these groups to a new level and who were featured in a story on NBC News yesterday:
When they aren’t working or taking care of their autistic children, Melissa Eaton and Amanda Seigler are moles. Eaton, 39, a single mother from Salisbury, North Carolina, and Seigler, 38, a mom to six in Lake Worth, Florida, have spent much of their free time in the last three years infiltrating more than a dozen private Facebook groups for parents of autistic kids. In some of these groups, members describe using dubious, dangerous methods to try to “heal” their children’s autism — a condition with no medically known cause or cure. The parents in many of these groups, which have ranged from tens to tens of thousands of members, believe that autism is caused by a hodgepodge of phenomena, including viruses, bacteria, fungal infections, parasites, heavy metal poisoning from vaccines, general inflammation, allergies, gluten and even the moon. The so-called treatments are equally confused. Some parents credit turpentine or their children’s own urine as the secret miracle drug for reversing autism. One of the most sought-after chemicals is chlorine dioxide — a compound that the Food and Drug Administration warns amounts to industrial bleach, and doctors say can cause permanent harm. Parents still give it to their children orally, through enemas, and in baths. Proponents of chlorine dioxide profit off these parents’ fears and hopes by selling books about the supposed “cure,” marketing the chemicals and posting how-to videos.
Yes, that’s MMS they’re talking about, the bleach in the bleach enemas I’ve been talking about.
Basically, Eaton and Seigler pretend to be desperate parents looking for treatments or a cure for their child’s autism. Because they actually have autistic children, they are very convincing. After all, the moderators and gatekeepers of these groups are very wary, as they want to guard against just what Eaton and Seigler are doing; they want to prevent skeptics from infiltrating their groups to observe and report on what’s happening and what they’re discussing. Once in, Eaton and Seigler take screenshots of posts by parents describing subjecting their children to quackery like MMS. They are not the first to do something like this; I’ve written about what I’ve learned from previous moles in autism biomed groups before, and it’s not pretty. They do, however, appear to be the most dedicated and systematic moles that I’ve yet encountered.
Here are some of the things they’ve found. Here’s one example of a child subjected to autism biomed quackery:
“My son is constantly making a gasping sound,” posted one Kansas mother who claimed to treat her adult son with chlorine dioxide, according to screenshots shared by Eaton and Seigler. “He won’t open his mouth,” a Canadian mom wrote of her 2-year-old’s unwillingness to drink the chlorine dioxide. “He screams. Spits. Flips over.”
Well, yes. It’s bleach. It not infrequently makes these children sick. After all, Kerri Rivera’s whole protocol involved increasing the dose until the child does start to become sick. That was the point. For example:
The groups are filled with parents who say they have tried treating their children with chlorine dioxide. “Have not been able to get 5 year old to cooperate with enemas,” a Massachusetts mother complained, according to a screenshot provided by Eaton and Seigler, who work together in their investigating. One Georgia mother posted a photo of a long thread of what looks like mucus that she said dislodged after giving her autistic son a chlorine dioxide emema. In the caption, she wrote, “It broke in half when Jojo trying to escape.”
The worst part is the comments, which suggest that the children’s adverse reactions are just proof that the chlorine dioxide is working, Eaton and Seigler said.
Yes, I’ve seen that claim many, many times. It is, as I just mentioned, a central feature of Kerri Rivera’s protocol, where she explicitly says this. Reading between the lines, my interpretation of her advocating gradually increasing the dose was that she misinterpreted the side effects and nausea that MMS can cause as evidence that the MMS was “working.” Sadly, although Rivera can no longer sell her quackery in the US, she’s still active in Mexico. Hilariously (and depressingly), she does still defend her use of MMS:
Rivera declined to be interviewed by NBC News, but in emails she defended chlorine dioxide and her credentials. “This is a medical issue. I have a degree in homeopathy and work with MDs and PhD scientists,” she wrote. Rivera did not respond to requests for more information about these doctors and the institution that granted her degree.
I’m not sure what bleach enemas have to do with homeopathy, but I am amused by her claim that she works with MD and PhD scientists. Of course, I’m not surprised that she didn’t actually name any of these “MD and PhD scientists.”
As for the long thread of mucus mentioned by the parent, I’ve discussed this aspect in detail. The “ropes” and other things that parents fish out of the poop of their children after they’ve received MMS enemas are not parasites or worms or whatever else MMS advocates claim them to be. They’re mucus and large chunks of the lining of the colon, because that’s what happens when you shoot bleach up your rectum. You’ll slough at least parts of the lining of your colon!
Not that that deters Rivera:
In a video, Rivera scoffs at doctors’ warnings: “If it’s deadly, we would see dead people.” In fact, we do. In the last five years, poison control centers have managed 16,521 cases nationwide dealing with chlorine dioxide, according to data provided by the American Association of Poison Control Centers. Approximately 2,500 of those cases involved children under 12; it’s not clear how many of those children were autistic. The data showed serious side effects from chlorine dioxide poisoning in 2,123 cases since 2014. Fifty of those cases were considered life-threatening, and eight people died.
I’d be willing to bet that the vast majority of these cases were autistic children treated with MMS. In fairness, though, it’s not just autism biomed. Humble and his church advocate the use of MMS as a cure-all and general health tonic. It’s basically a sacrament to them, which is how they try to get around the law. So it’s possible that a significant fraction were not autistic children being subjected to autism biomed, but I highly doubt that it’s a majority.
If there’s something we need, it’s more people like Eaton and Seigler willing to go above and beyond just observation and find these parents subjecting their children not just to medical neglect, but to medical abuse.