It’s time to get this video clip out again:
Yes, just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in. But who are “they”? I’m referring to the cult that thinks that bleach enemas (and also ingested bleach) will cure children of autism. I was reminded of that cult when ABC News 20/20 aired a special on Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS), the aforementioned bleach miracle cure. It’s the sort of story that we need to see more of, the result of what was reported to be a year-long investigation of Rev. Jim Humble and his church, the inventor and primary promoter of MMS as a cure for autism and just about everything else.
Before I get to the story, let’s recap. MMS is bleach. Specifically, it is a 28% sodium chlorite in distilled water that generates chlorine dioxide when diluted with citric acid-containing or other acid-containing foods, as instructed. This is a chemical used for water purification that a quack named Jim Humble has touted as a miracle cure for just about everything from cancer to AIDS to a wide variety of conditions, serious and not-so-serious. There is no currently known valid medical reason to administer this chemical to anyone to treat anything, much less cancer, autism, AIDS, or other medical conditions. None of this is (or should be) in serious dispute from a strictly scientific, medical, or ethical standpoint.
The next fact that is not in serious dispute is that a woman named Kerri Rivera, operating out of a quack clinic in Mexico, has been touting MMS as a “biomedical” treatment for autism. Although she appears to have gotten out of the MMS business ever since having had to agree to sign an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance with the state of Illinois, which means that she agreed to stop promoting and selling chlorine dioxide bleach as a treatment for autism, she was the main person who popularized the treatment in the “autism biomed” community. As part of the treatment, she advocated feeding MMS to autistic children every two hours over the course of 72 hours (her “72-2 protocol”) and giving children MMS enemas three times a week, basically to “bleach the autism away.” She admitted that the side effects included at minimum diarrhea and fever. In fact, she has said that the diarrhea is a good thing if it’s “detox diarrhea” and that the fever means the immune system is being stimulated, thus making it a good thing as well. What is also not in dispute is that Rivera brought this message of bleaching autism away to the yearly autism biomed quackfest known as Autism One multiple times, making even some die-hard supporters of autism quackery cringe. Again, there is currently no known valid medical reason to give this chemical to any autistic child to treat autism. Again, none of this is (or should be) in serious dispute from a scientific standpoint.
It’s a shocking report. The level of lies coming from Jim Humble is truly amazing, as is his shamelessness in claiming to be able to cure breast cancer, prostate cancer, brain cancer, and autism, describing MMS as a “sacrament.” Steve Novella makes an appearance, and Jim Humble’s reaction to being challenged is quite telling. I must admit that I particularly liked the part where they poured MMS on a pair of blue jeans to demonstrate what a strong bleach it is. One particularly horrific part comes near the end of the first segment, where Humble’s “archbishop” Mark Grenon is shown in his studio saying that if you get breast cancer, you brought it on, and that women should rely on MMS, not mammograms, surgery, and chemotherapy.
One woman, Sylvia Nash, died after taking MMS as a preventative measure for malaria. Her widower Doug gives a harrowing account of how his wife died in his arms after taking MMS. It’s not clear from the autopsy that MMS actually caused her death, but one really has to wonder, given the temporal proximity of her death to her having taken MMS. Correlation doesn’t always equal causation, but it’s very suspicious, it’s initially plausible that MMS caused Nash’s death, as you can see if you examine more details in the ABC7 report:
On the other hand, his wife only took two drops, which shouldn’t have been a highly toxic dose for an adult. So it’s still unclear whether MMS is what killed Sylvia Nash.
The next segment shows ABC News tracking down Jim Humble in his Mexican redoubt:
One thing I never realized before is just how whacky Humble is. He claims to have come from another galaxy, for one thing. When cornered by a reporter, Humble remained cool, calm, and collected, denying that MMS could be harmful and standing by claims that it is good for children and women with breast cancer. Tellingly, when asked for evidence, he was unable to produce any.
One good thing that happened last year on the MMS front is that a major distributor of MMS and believer in Jim Humble’s Genesis II Church, Louis Daniel Smith, was convicted of selling MMS as a drug and sentenced to four years in prison. Unfortunately, Smith was part of a huge network of at least 1,700 selling MMR around the world; so stopping him hardly puts a dent in MMS distribution. After all, there are many others like this:
And the occasional celebrity testimonial, like this one by Lindsay Wagner, who starred as The Bionic Woman:
But none of that 70s TV magic prepared Wagner for an ailment she would suffer in real life – a case of chronic Urticaria, which is severe, disabling hives.
“All over my body, like welts, like big welts. I looked like a boxer, my eyes were all swollen,” she said.
Steroids and antihistamines helped, but they had side effects and weren’t a permanent solution. So after eight months of suffering, Wagner was desperate for a cure.
“It would burn. It would itch like crazy. It’s something that could just make you go insane,” she said.
Through a friend, Wagner was put in touch with a woman whose child seemed to be nearly cured of severe autism by something called Miracle Mineral Solution, or MMS, that was purported to work for a variety of ailments, including chronic hives.
“I was dumbfounded. Within a week, I was off the Prednisone. Within one week, I was just shocked,” she said.
She said within weeks the hives disappeared and never came back.
“I’m not a doctor. I’m not a scientist. I’m not a chemist. But it just seemed like this had actually cured whatever I was reacting to,” she said.
Chronic urticaria is a skin condition with a wide variety of presentations tied to a large number of causes. It’s often very hard to treat, but its natural course is to wax and wane, to become quiescent for a while and to recur. In other words, it’s a perfect condition to give the illusion of effectiveness to a quack remedy., and it’s incredibly unlikely that MMS cured Wagner’s urticaria. That’s why I wish ABC7 had resisted the temptation to include this segment. It adds nothing to the story, but it’s a credulous treatment of MMS that taints an otherwise very good report.
Unfortunately, as long as Humble stays in Mexico, there isn’t much that US authorities can do to investigate or extradite him. His archbishop, Mark Grenon, continues to sell MMS in the US, claiming immunity due to his being an archbishop and Genesis II being a church. Grenon isn’t quite as smooth as Humble. Basically, when confronted by the 20/20 team, he started ranting, swearing, and asking if ABC is owned by the Rothschilds. It’s simultaneously hilarious and disturbing at the same time to watch.
One thing that disappointed me about the 20/20 segment was that there was very little about autism and virtually nothing about Kerri Rivera. Fortunately, ABC7 takes up that slack:
Particularly balmy is this claim:
“Will it cure autism?” Wedeen asked.
“Well, we’ve seen 234 people lose their autism diagnosis with the protocol,” Rivera told Wedeen.
“I guess I’m just scared of the side effects? But if there aren’t any?” Wedeen said.
“There are no side effects. It doesn’t have any. Within an hour it’s out of the body,” Rivera responded.
Rivera insisted the potion was safe because it’s chemically different from bleach. She also claimed it’s most effective when doses are timed to cycles of the moon.
“Yeah, full moon because the parasites go into the gut during the full moon and the new moon and they mate,” Rivera told Wedeen.
“Really?” Wedeen asked.
“And so you can get a lot of kills. You can kill a lot of parasites during the moon cycles,” Rivera stated.
I’ve examined photos of the “parasites” parents using MMS have claimed to have removed from their children’s intestines through the use of MMS enemas before. They’re generally disgusting ropy-looking strands with mucus attached. Basically, anyone with a modicum of knowledge about parasites and gastroenterology will recognized that these are not actually parasites, but rather mucus mixed with fragments of colon mucosa (the innermost lining of the colon). It’s definitely not worms or parasites, and the claim that the parasites go into the child on the full moon to mate is about as daft a claim as I’ve ever heard. Four years after having learned of MMS and Kerri Rivera, I still have time accepting that anyone could believe such nonsense, but believe it they do.
One of the best disinfectants for quackery like MMS is to shine the light of publicity and skepticism on it. Kudos to ABC and ABC7 for doing just that.