Brandy Zadrozny at NBC:
The chlorine dioxide Laurel Austin gives to her sons is made by mixing a sodium chlorite solution with an acid activator — both of which are available online for about $20. The solution was first promoted almost two decades ago by a former Scientologist, Jim Humble, as the “Miracle Mineral Solution,” or MMS for short, and sold as a cure for AIDS, cancer and almost every other disease known to humanity.
Doctors say chlorine dioxide’s only effects are harmful, warning that it can damage tissues in the digestive system, disrupt the functioning of red blood cells and lead to kidney failure.
Kerri Rivera, a former Chicago real estate agent who is not a doctor, latched onto the so-called cure and began suggesting it to parents of autistic children around 2012, writing a book and appearing at seminars and on popular conspiracy theorists’ YouTube channels at a time when autism diagnoses were skyrocketing. Rivera declined to comment.
Over 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. At least 50 of the cases were considered life-threatening, and eight people died. It’s not clear how many of the cases involved people with autism.
Laurel Austin showed the police online articles about chlorine dioxide, including one from the Autism Research Institute, one of the first and most vocal organizations to push the discredited theory that vaccines cause autism. That 2015 article claimed the solution had the potential to heal, but ultimately advised against its use, according to investigation notes. “This legitimizes the claim by Laurel of her use of MMS CLO2 as a holistic treatment approach,” the officer wrote. Laurel Austin followed up with the officer by sending a link to a YouTube video of Rivera explaining the chlorine dioxide protocol.