The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is, not for the first time, warning the general public to avoid consuming a product called Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS). Despite over a decade of health warnings and cases of death, the sham product, which is essentially industrial bleach, is still being marketed and consumed as a miracle cure for everything from autism to cancer and HIV.

MMS is a chemical called sodium chlorite. When mixed with a citric acid, as directions for use suggest, it becomes chlorine dioxide, an industrial strength bleaching agent. In 2006 Jim Humble, a former aerospace engineer, published a book called The Miracle Mineral Solution of the 21st Century. In the book Humble described his discovery of this magical health elixir while prospecting for gold in South America. Humble claimed, what he later came to call MMS, was a cure for malaria.

The FDA first warned of the dangers of MMS back in 2010 after reports, "consumers suffered from nausea, severe vomiting, and life-threatening low blood pressure caused by dehydration." Since then, MMS has consistently popped in and out of mainstream news cycles as the toxic pseudo-medicine regularly caused serious damage to those consumers believing the frequently raised health claims.

Despite no scientific evidence to suggest MMS can effectively treat any medical condition, and a large volume of evidence suggesting it is actually harmful and dangerous, the product has mystifyingly continued to exist and be spread by a group of dedicated advocates. These MMS believers are primarily members of a group called the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing, a church founded by Humble, and seemingly geared entirely around the advocacy and distribution of MMS.

A striking 2015 Vice investigation into the MMS phenomenon discovered the product had made its way into alternative anti-vaxxer online communities, presenting itself as a miracle cure for autism. The investigation described how MMS was being forced on autistic children by some parents.

"It's like something from a Stephen King horror film," claimed Fiona O'Leary, an anti-MMS activist from Ireland. "They're guinea pigs. They don't have a life. From the minute that they wake up in the morning they're dosed with the [chlorine dioxide], and they're dosed throughout the day. Parents are removing them from school because they're not allowed to dose in school and they're hiding from child protection authorities because they know what they're doing is wrong."

While MMS is now banned in countries such as Ireland and Canada, the chemical can still be sold in the United States, just as long as it isn't sold for human consumption. It is unclear what exactly has spawned the FDA's latest push against MMS but the "miracle cure" has recently emerged again from the dark recesses of pseudoscience after the Genesis II Church was revealed to be promoting an event in a Washington state hotel. The event was ostensibly geared around the discussion of MMS, described as a "sacrament", and called for US$450 donations from those attending.

An even more disconcerting recent story revealed a major network called Global Healing importing MMS into Uganda. Led by an American pastor named Robert Baldwin, it is alleged hundreds of local clerics in the country have been trained to administer MMS through Christian church ceremonies. The product has been relabeled as "healing water".

It is somewhat incredible that despite absolutely no scientific evidence the myth of MMS as a cure-all has persisted for so many years. It's perhaps a perfect encapsulation of how the internet acts as a space for blatant misinformation to flourish in tiny closed-off echo chambers. What we can say for sure is that chlorine dioxide, the chemical MMS becomes when prepared as directed, is toxic and primarily used in industrial contexts for disinfecting water and bleaching wood pulp.

Source: FDA