“My son is constantly making a gasping sound,” wrote one mother.
“Have not been able to get 5 year old to cooperate with enemas,” said another.
These parents were describing their experiences giving chlorine dioxide, a chemical found in some types of bleach, to their children. The home remedy is one of many propagated in online communities as a way to “treat” autism, a condition with no known cure or disease.
Using the compound gained popularity after Scientologist Jim Humble began promoting it as a miracle cure for HIV, malaria, cancer, autism, and a number of other maladies. However, it’s effectiveness has never been proven in clinical trials and the FDA strongly advises using the compound for medical purposes.
“This stuff does nothing other than introduce potential risk,” says Dr. Daniel Brooks of Banner University Medical Center’s Poison and Drug Information Center. He adds that the chemical can “lead to kidney damage and kidney failure” and cause major issues with the body’s red blood cells and digestive system.
While Facebook, YouTube, and Amazon have made some policy changes to help prevent the spread of faux autism cures, stopping it completely has proven difficult for the platforms.
That’s why moms like Melissa Eaton and Amanda Seigler have begun to fight back. The pair infiltrate these so-called autism self-help groups with fake accounts, reporting cases of possible child abuse to authorities in the poster’s area.
“It really weighs on you, but kids are being abused,” added Eaton. “You see it. You have the choice of doing something about it or letting it go. And I’m not the kind of person who can see something like that and just forget about it.”