Amazon has pulled two books peddling pseudoscientific “autism cures” that promote giving children potentially toxic chemical baths and medication for mercury poisoning.
Healing the Symptoms Known as Autism and Fight Autism and Win, the books in question, were amongst those highlighted in a recent report from Wired about Amazon carrying multiple books peddling dubious, potentially life-threatening “treatments.” Healing the Symptoms Known as Autism contained instructions for making chlorine dioxide, a substance similar to bleach that’s often referred to as a “miracle mineral solution.” As NBC notes, the Food and Drug Administration warned in 2010 that chlorine dioxide produced in this way creates “an industrial bleach” that could induce “severe nausea, vomiting, and life-threatening low blood pressure from dehydration.”
Meanwhile, Fight Autism and Win advocated chelation treatments, which involves giving children drugs meant to cure mercury poisoning. The logic—if you can call it that—stems from the debunked theory that vaccines containing trace amounts of mercury are the cause of autism. The Mayo Clinic cites that chelation therapy is not an effective autism treatment, and in 2005, a 5-year-old boy died after the treatment sent him into cardiac arrest.
It’s unclear as to whether Amazon pulling the books is in response to increasing pressure or a wider effort to remove medical misinformation. Earlier this month, Amazon also appeared to remove anti-vaccination documentaries from Prime Video streaming. This is also not the first time Amazon has removed a controversial book from sale. Back in 2010, it pulled a self-published book on pedophilia after it sparked protests online. Gizmodo reached out to Amazon for further clarification on its policy, and we’ll update if we hear back.
In the meantime, while these two books were removed, many other dubious books remain for sale in Amazon’s marketplace. A search for “autism cures” still returns over 400 books, with many advocating alternative medicines. A peek into the archived product page for Healing the Symptoms Known as Autism shows many parents praising chlorine dioxide while denouncing traditional medicine. “My boy[’s] aggression, biting, anxiety, bad mood stopped just after 3 days in the protocol...Don’t listen to big pharma payed supporters (probably all the bad reviews you read here) they look so obvious,” reads one review. Another reads, “This book is awesome! The information helped me in healing my daughters spectrum issues. The protocol works people...”
Whether Amazon believes it has a responsibility to better monitor the type of books it sells on its platform, increased scrutiny has led tech giants to crack down on health misinformation. Last month, Facebook said it was mulling ways to prevent the spread of anti-vaccination content, and last week said it would downrank anti-vax pages and groups from searches and the News Feed, as well as reject ads. YouTube also recently removed anti-vaxxer ads from its videos.
In the meantime, it apparently needs saying but vaccinate your children, and don’t feed them bleach.