In November of this year I came across a website offering a detox therapy whereby customers put their feet in a warm footbath and “a special field enhancer unit ionises the water, charging your cells as the blood passes through your feet and stimulating the body’s natural cleaning processes.” As I read the website more closely, I discovered that this treatment was recommended for fibromyalgia, cancer, arthritis, parasites and pathogens and that for full benefits 10 to 20 sessions were recommended (at $65 per session!).
I decided to complain to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about this website, as the treatment not only sounded like pseudoscience, but in my opinion, targeting people with cancer, fibromyalgia etc seemed exploitative.
My complaint has been upheld, however, the website is still up – and I am just waiting to see how the ASA process pans out (I suspect the advertiser may have appealed). However, last week I did receive a copy of the decision including the response of the advertiser – it makes very interesting reading.
First the advertiser claimed:
“There has been a difference of opinion as to what ionisation can do. Like any scientific matter, this poses problems for people to understand the process of ionisation and how it can impart energy to the cell. People with chemistry degrees will understand the process and know how the energy from ionisation can impart energy to the cell therefore helping cellular function to improve.”
So the advertiser has played the “uncertainty in science” card as well as the “only people with a chemistry degree can understand what we are talking about.” I guess the advertiser didn’t know that the complainant has a PhD in chemistry and 20+ years experience in chemistry. And while there is certainly some uncertainty in science – the chemistry and biology of ions is fairly clear.
The irony of claiming that one needs to understand chemistry to understand biocleansing emerged in the next claim from the advertiser:
“Electrolysis of water breaks the water molecule into H- and OH+”
Anyone with even a basic understanding of chemistry knows that:
1) Electrolysis usually refers to the conversion of water into oxygen gas and hydrogen gas
2) When water is converted into ions, it is H+ and OH- ions, not H- and OH+!
The advertiser then continues by claiming, amongst other things that:
- negative ions are absorbed through the skin by osmosis
- the negative ions are, by definition, alkaline
- the negative ions “negate free radicals and positive ions, which are acidic, by donating the extra electron they carry“
- many people who are sick “are very acidic“
- cancer requires an acidic environment to survive
- because air ionisation has been used by Russian olympic teams, then water ionisation must work better (note – air ionisation is a completely different process and comparing them is not relevant).
The advertiser also attempted to provide “scientific evidence” to support their claim by submitting a magazine article, and several abstracts without naming the journal or authors or the year they were published. These were rightly rejected by the ASA, as inadequate.
The pseudoscience used by the advertiser to justify their “therapy” has been a real eye opener. It shows a complete disconnect from, or disregard for, science – I’m not quite sure which.
As I wait to see how the ASA complaint pans out I am going to be investigating other similar therapies in New Zealand, so if you are aware of any please let me know.