HSE warning over Covid conspiracy theorists promoting bleach treatment as ‘cure’
THE HSE has warned Irish consumers not to be fooled by fraudulent ‘miracle cures’ containing bleach which are being promoted on social media by Covid deniers and some influencers and in some cases may cause serious damage.
Sodium chlorite, a bleach solution, is touted as a miracle cure for conditions such as autism. It is also described by far-right activists as well as Covid deniers as a form of cure for Covid-19.
The supplement is most often called Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS), but it has many similar brand names.
The HSE and HPRA have warned that taking this supplement can cause serious illness.
However, the use of the bleach solution is promoted on several highly followed Instagram and Facebook pages. These pages feature discussions on how best to use the products. These are not official pages belonging to the influencers or the companies themselves.
In addition to social media advertising, there are active groups on Facebook and the Telegram messaging service that actively promote the use of these bleach products. There are step-by-step guides on how to access the bleach solution and then mix it up posted on various message boards.
Companies found by The newspaper selling the product do not accept traditional cash or card payments. Instead, they ask people to use instant money transfer apps.
The supposed testimonials of people who have used the product are also largely on the sites that sell the products.
One such company, which has been widely advertised online as a place where Irish people can get their hands on MMS, has a UK WhatsApp number as well as a generic Gmail address as points of contact.
On its website, a significant amount of products are available for purchase.
The firm has this disclaimer at the very bottom of its website:
“Products sold only for water purification, we do not advise using these products for internal use, but they can be used for cleaning and water purification only.”
Dr. Mary Rose Sweeney is a DCU Professor specializing in Health Systems Research and Public Health in the School of Nursing and Humanities.
She said there are serious dangers associated with using bleach, noting that there is no evidence these products work to treat any disease.
“The Food Standards Authority describes Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS) as a solution typically containing the chemical sodium chlorite, which in high concentrations is used as a bleaching agent,” she said.
“Sodium chlorite has approved uses in some countries as a surface cleaner for areas used for food preparation. It is sometimes described as food grade, but this should not be taken to mean that it is safe for consumption.
She described it as “unsafe to use”, noting that the risks of doing so increase the longer a person takes it.
“Low doses can lead to gastrointestinal irritation while consuming higher doses can cause severe nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration, low blood pressure and even acute liver failure.
“A range of purported health benefits linked to these products are being touted by those promoting it, including claims that it has antimicrobial, antiviral and antibacterial properties that are a cure for autism, cancer, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, influenza and other conditions. There is no scientific evidence to show that these products are safe or effective in treating any disease.”
In a statement to The newspaper, an HSE spokesperson added: “Sodium chlorite is not an approved medicine in Ireland. The HSE warns that some online content may contain misinformation that is either completely untrue, not entirely accurate or not backed by experts.
“We ask people to get their information from trusted sources, such as hse.ie.”
Food safety experts from many countries have issued warnings about the use of MMS in Ireland.
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The FDA in the United States issued a stern warning in 2019, urging people not to use MMS.
“The FDA has recently received new reports of people experiencing severe vomiting, severe diarrhea, life-threatening low blood pressure caused by dehydration, and acute liver failure after drinking these products,” he warned.
In the UK, the Food Standards Agency issued a very similar warning to its American counterparts.
The statement, released in late 2020, read: “Sodium chlorite products vary in concentration, specific dosage and method of ingestion.
“With lower strength products, any health impact from consuming these products is likely to be gastrointestinal irritation.
“For more potent products, the effects can be severe nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration and low blood pressure.
“If the solution is less dilute than expected, it could damage the gut and red blood cells, potentially leading to respiratory failure.”
The HPRA here also warned against using fake cures for Covid-19.
A spokesperson said: “The HPRA urges members of the public not to buy any medicine online that claims to cure or prevent Covid-19. There are currently no such medicinal products authorized. While online sellers may claim that their products can prevent, cure or treat Covid-19, these products are likely to be illegal or tampered with and could be harmful to your health.