Search YouTube for “Miracle Mineral Solution” or “MMS” and you will find a trove of videos about how consuming bleach will treat various illnesses—acne, flu, malaria, HIV, hepatitis, cancer, and autism.
But MMS is just chlorine dioxide—an industrial bleach. The Food and Drug Administration has warned that MMS “can cause serious harm to health” and said the agency “has received several reports of health injuries from consumers using this product, including severe nausea, vomiting, and life-threatening low blood pressure from dehydration.” It advises that anyone who has the solution “should stop using it immediately and throw it away.
One such YouTuber who has reportedly promoted this dangerous “treatment” is Laurel Austin of Lenexa, Kansas. According to an NBC News report, the first time she fed one of her sons the bleach solution, she filmed the moment and shared it with her thousands of subscribers. Reporter Brandy Zadrozny described the video, writing that after the young man, who has autism, took the solution, “his arms seem to involuntarily twist around one another and he screams into his forearm before taking a bite of a banana.”
According to NBC, four of Austin’s of six children have autism, and a review of her Facebook page showed she has attempted various fad alternative treatments on her children. The news outlet reviewed social media posts and a Lenexa police department documents that reportedly show throughout the last year, Austin has given regular doses of chlorine dioxide to her two sons, aged 27 and 28.
The boys’ father, Bradley Austin, has reportedly been trying to prevent Austin from administering chlorine dioxide to their sons since he found out she was doing it in January. But, according to NBC, the Lenexa police and Kansas adult protective services looked into the matter and decided not to do anything about it. The dismissal from law enforcement reportedly baffled Bradley, who told NBC News,“I just want her to stop.”
Austin did not respond to a Gizmodo request for comment, but she told NBC that the news outlet was “being used as a shameful tool with incorrect information by an absentee father as means to lower or even eliminate his child support obligation to his autistic special needs sons.”
According to NBC, police documents show that after Bradley reported to police that Austin was administering chlorine dioxide to their sons, officers reportedly spoke to a pharmacist at a state poison control center who said it was unsafe. Then police visited Austin’s house where she said she was following the chlorine dioxide protocol of the Kerri Rivera, a prominent promoter of the treatment who is not a medical professional.
Since about 2012, Rivera has been championing the bogus MMS solution as a treatment for autism. In March, Amazon removed her book on the chlorine dioxide protocol. Rivera has participated in many seminars and interviews on YouTube channels promoting anti-vaccination ideas and conspiracy theories. In at least one of these videos, Austin is also interviewed, alongside Rivera, about using the treatment on her sons.
Police documents reviewed by NBC show that Austin shared with police a link to a Rivera video about chlorine dioxide protocol, and an online article from Autism Research Institute. According to NBC, police reports stated that, while the article did suggest the solution could heal, it advised against using it, adding, “This legitimizes the claim by Laurel of her use of MMS CLO2 as a holistic treatment approach.”
The documents also reportedly showed that police reviewed a list of supplements meant for one of the sons, which advised he take 16 doses of chlorine dioxide treatment each day, one every hour. This was reportedly signed and stamped by a primary care physician at Kansas University’s MedWest Family Medicine Clinic, Sarita Singh.
Singh reportedly confirmed to police she approved the chlorine dioxide treatment and told police that chlorine dioxide was “benign and not toxic,” according to NBC, which could not reach Singh as she is on maternity leave.
A spokesperson for the University of Kansas Health System told Gizmodo that the hospital couldn’t provide a statement since it would require Austin to sign a HIPAA waiver to reveal protected medical information about a patient. The organization wouldn’t comment regardless, a spokesperson said, because it “would not have anything to add to this story at this time.”
Lenexa police department did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment. A police spokesperson told NBC it didn’t have enough evidence to show the treatment was dangerous.
This investigation was reportedly the second time Lenexa police have looked into Austin administering bleach to her sons. NBC reports that last November the developmental disabilities program Options Services reported Austin to police after she gave the chlorine dioxide treatment to one of her sons in the parking lot after the staff refused to give him the solution. That reportedly led to a Kansas Adult Protective Services investigation.
A spokesperson for Kansas Department for Children and Families told Gizmodo that adult protective services cases are confidential and the agency wouldn’t comment.
According to police reports reviewed by NBC, a caseworker visited Austin’s house, saw a doctor’s note for the solution, interacted with the son, and decided not to pursue any action.
Correction: Gizmodo originally reported that police documents reviewed by NBC showed that Laurel Austin shared an online article from Autism Research Institute with police. However, we did not clarify that police notes reportedly stated that, while the article did suggest the solution could heal, it advised against using it. This article also originally stated that the institute promotes the widely debunked notion that vaccines cause autism. The Autism Research Institute’s founder Bernard Rimland once called vaccinations a “prime suspect” in the rise of autism, but the institute claims it no longer promotes information about specific causes of autism. We regret the errors.