I’ve written a couple of times about the so-called ‘Miracle Mineral Supplement’, aka MMS. A recent post over on Science-Based Medicine looks at some of the claims made for this stuff, which is simply sodium chlorite, ‘activated’ by being mixed with citrus juice – and at some of the potentially serious side-effects associated with its use. And just now one of my readers has e-mailed me:

I know you’ve covered the Miracle Mineral Supplement hawkers before. It’s fascinating how this particular dealer exploits the Medsafe NZ non-compliance letter to *enhance* their marketing! Indeed – how else could you read the following?:

Therefore, regardless of the many thousands of success stories worldwide; this website cannot and will not make any claims that MMS assists in the treatment of serious diseases or conditions; such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, HIV/AIDS, cancer, leukaemia, malaria, hepatitis and others.

Have you been following the case of 15-year-old skeptic Rhys Morgan who got into a spat over MMS at a Crohn’s Disease support forum and has since been banned? He’s an articulate, brave young man. It’s an interesting story and got me digging back to look at your old posts. The comments surprised me. ..(I hadn’t heard of Rhys before, but now I’ve looked him up. He’s posted an excellent TwitVid here.)

There are some horrific threads on MMS by NZers that I’ve found while browsing this morning. This one makes me shiver.

I shivered too. As one writer on that particular thread points out, “MMS is a 28% sodium chlorite (NaClO2) solution that you are activating with 10% citric acid,” a process that releases chlorine dioxide. This last is not nice stuff at all (taken by mouth, high doses can result in nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, & if all this continues there’s the potential for severe dehydration. In fact the US Food & Drug Administration has put out an advisory warning against taking MMS, noting that “the product, when used as directed, produces an industrial bleach that can cause serious harm to health.”  Yet the purveyors of this stuff make all sorts of claims for it, including that it cures AIDS, for goodness’ sake!

And they support their claims with all sorts of pseudoscientific nonsense. The NZ dealer that my correspondent linked to claims that MMS isn’t really a miracle, it’s “just plain chemistry!” and states that

when a chlorine dioxide ion contacts a harmful pathogen, 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.

This isn’t chemistry at all: a) while ClO2 can dissociate in water to form ions, there’s no such thing as a ‘chlorine dioxide ion’; b) how, exactly, does ClO2 differentiate between harmful (pathogenic) and ‘friendly’ bacteria? They don’t have little labels identifying them, & in many cases an organism may be ‘friendly’ in some contexts & definitely disease-causing in others; and c) ClO2 is an oxidising agent & thus, indeed, an electron acceptor. But how the removal of any electrons from a bacterium – a complex living organism – would produce a ‘harmless salt’ is beyond me & would in fact require a rewriting of the rules of chemistry. (A ‘salt’ is an ionic compound that get when you react an acid eg hydrochloric acid with a ‘base’ eg sodium hydroxide.)

The dealer also claims that chlorine dioxide is carried around the body by red blood cells, which supposedly make no distinction between this compound & oxygen. In fact, what this oxidising agent does is oxidise haemoglobin (the protein complex in red blood cells that carries oxygen) to produce methaemoglobin. Methaemoglobin cannot bind to oxygen, so high levels of ClO2 would reduce your blood’s ability to carry oxygen to your tissues – not good for you at all (headaches, shortness of breath, & fatigue are some of the symptoms of a high methaemoglobin titre in your blood).

I have to say, all this both saddens & puzzles me.It puzzles me, because I can’t understand how it is that people will accept marketing claims like  this. Is it because the snake-oil statements cast the world in black & white, while science (& science-based medicine) simply can’t, & won’t, guarantee a result? Is it because the snake oil offers an easy fix (albeit a potentially costly one – in more ways than one! - if you keep on using the stuff)? Is it symptomatic of a wider distrust of science itself?