We've got news for you.

Register on TimesLIVE at no cost to receive newsletters, read exclusive articles & more.
Register now

Autistic kids fed bleach

02 November 2015 - 02:06 By Katharine Child

Severely autistic children in South Africa are being given industrial bleach in a product marketed as a "cure" for autism. Miracle Mineral Solution causes severe stomach pains, nausea, dehydration and spasms, and puts the children at risk of death.The US Justice Department describes the solution, chlorine dioxide, as an "industrial chemical used as a pesticide [and] in fracking and waste-water treatment."A US court last week sentenced Louis Daniel Smith to 51 months in jail for selling the product as a medicine.It is the first known jail sentence linked to the product, which is promoted globally as a cure for autism and a range of diseases including cancer and Aids.Local website BioSil.co.za sells the product and Cape Town-based autism organisation Reach Autism SA provides training in its use.A parent, who gives it to his severely autistic child who cannot communicate - and who uses it himself - said he would do whatever it took to help his son.The father, who asked to remain anonymous, said: "My son would hit his head against walls. I haven't seen him this happy in nine years. What choice do I have but to use this medicine or put him in an institution?"Two parents contacted by The Times believed the liquid cleansed the body of pathogens or germs.A former assistant at a school for the autistic claims she was forced to administer the solution to two pupils. Parents who saw their children vomiting or in pain believed the treatment was "getting rid of the autism-inducing parasites".Autism is a neuro-developmental condition with no cure and whose cause is unknown. Autistic children struggle to communicate, with some displaying self-destructive behaviour.Health Department spokesman Joe Maila said: "Autism is a complex neurological condition. Parents who give autism patients bleach as a cure are only taking advantage of their vulnerabilities."Cape Town doctor Louise Lindenberg said: "I know of children who have been harmed by Miracle Mineral Solution. One of the children I had seen before landed in hospital with diarrhoea, weight loss, dehydration and metabolic disturbances."She said some of the children had produced abnormal blood test results.Biosil owner Yvonne Blossom refused to comment.Reach Autism SA, run by Jenny Buckle - several of whose children are autistic - provides training about the product to other parents.She began giving it to her children after attending a course in the US in 2013. She said they had made miraculous improvements.Though Buckle claims she is not "promoting" the "medicine", in e-mails seen by The Times she provides parents with a "protocol" [instructions] on how often to administer it and puts the mother of an autistic boy in touch with a man selling the product.Consumer activist and doctor Harris Steinman said selling an industrial solvent as a medicine was illegal.As defined in the Medicines Act, Miracle Mineral Solution was not a natural product or a registered medicine and it was therefore illegal to use it on children.But Buckle said: "My children are the happiest you will ever meet after this product."It is chlorine dioxide, not chlorine. There is science behind it," she said."Maybe the product needs to be managed in some way. It should not be given without great care."The product was developed by Jim Humble and US author Kerri Rivera has written a book promoting the substance as a gentle cure for autism.But Irish mother Fiona O' Leary is running a global campaign against the product. She has reported two Irish doctors, a nurse and parents to the police for using the product on children.In Canada, the product was banned after someone nearly died after using it in 2008. A Mexican woman who used the product for malaria prevention died in 2009.It is sold online in Australia...

Support the Sunday Times by buying a subscription.

You’ve always trusted us to help you navigate the world. Support the Sunday Times by becoming a premium member for only R80 (digital access) and keep the conversation going. You can cancel anytime.

Already subscribed? Sign in below.

Digital access for only R80

Questions or problems? Email helpdesk@timeslive.co.za or call 0860 52 52 00.