I've written about MMS – the "Miracle Mineral Supplement" – several times beforeA (here and here, for example). I guess it's a useful thing to hold up to show how something can clearly be woo – eg claims that it kills/cures practically everythingB under the sun – and yet people still buy the stuff. Buy it, & potentially do real harm using it. Because MMS is essentially bleach: 28% sodium chlorite in distilled water. Those using it typically 'activate' it by mixing it with lemon or orange juice, which gives the strong bleach, chlorine dioxide. And then they drink it, or – even worse – feed it to their children…
Because it's popped up again in this news story, I thought I'd point out the ridiculousness of the claims for how MMS 'works', before weighing in on the story itself. Sad to say, the NZ-based website where I first found those claims is still around today, Quack Miranda warning & all. That site notes that ClO2 is "a proven pathogen killing mineralB used extensively in the hygiene and water treatment industriesC to destroy bacteria, viruses, pathogens and other harmful organisms in water" and helpfully points out that "the human body is 60-70% water". Their implication is that thus it works just as well in the body – in fact, it's not even implied; further down the page they actually say that "you could class the human body as being a 'water system'! As a biologist I'm gobsmacked: there is a world of difference between water treatment and reticulation systems, and the human body.
Anyway, here's how it's claimed to work:
When a chlorine dioxide ion contacts a harmful pathogen in a water system, it instantly rips up to five electrons from the pathogen, in what can be likened to a microscopic explosion; harmless to us, but terminal for pathogens. The pathogen – an electron donor – is rendered harmless due to the involuntary surrendering of its electrons to the chlorine dioxide – an electron acceptor – and the resulting release of energy. Oxidised by the chlorine ion, the former pathogen becomes a harmless salt.
Once it encounters various pathogens in water systems, chlorine dioxide performs a highly energetic acceptance of four electrons when it comes across any cell that is below a pH value of 7. This means that diseased cells are essentially vaporised (i.e., oxidised) while healthy cells are unaffected.
Now, ignoring the differences in the number of electrons cruelly ripped from … somewhere… this claim also obviously buys into the nonsense about needing to alkalise one's body (because acid conditions cause disease, donchaknow). It's also wrong: here's the actual mode of action:
Compounds within the cells and on the surface of cell membranes that contain oxidisable material react with chlorine dioxide, causing cell metabolism to be disrupted. Chlorine dioxide also reacts directly with disulphide bonds in the amino acids and the RNA in the cell.
That is, ClO2 will attack any oxidisable material on or in any cell; it's not selective in its action. Which is precisely why consuming MMS (either by mouth or rectally; more on that in a minute) has the potential to be quite harmful.
Anyway, back to the original news story, which tells us that a mother in the US was arrested for feeding MMS to her child – after 'activating' it, not with the usual lemon juice, but with hydrochloric acid. As Orac has noted (reasonably often), in addition to the usual claims that MMS will cure AIDS, malaria, & even cancer, there are also people who promote it as a 'cure' for autism. Worse, not only do they advise that parents of autistic children get them to drink the stuff, they also advocate using it in enemas – apparently in the belief that autism is due to intestinal parasites. Parents who do this often share photos of what they find in their children's faeces – what they're actually seeing is mucus, plus bits of mucosa ie the tissue that lines the gut. (If you want an idea of what the children are subjected to, read this post by one mother. I did – & felt like throwing up. That poor little boy.)
The only words I have for the people selling this stuff are not really printable.
A Just realised that my first post on this topic was back in 2008. How time flies! A pity the woo doesn't fly away with it.
B including, supposedly, cancer. The wooster at this site seems to have bought into the pseudoscientific claim that cancer is a form of fungus.
C Minerals are usually defined as inorganic & crystalline in structure, so I guess the purveyors are right on the inorganic part. Chlorine dioxide, alas, is a gas under normal conditions.
D Sadly for this argument, many things kill pathogens in the petri dish, but fail to do so internally.