Until today, when Amazon said it would remove the problematic books mentioned below, the company enabled fraudsters who sold pseudo-scientific autism “cures,” including those involving giving kids bleach to drink.
It’s unclear if the removals are part of a broader policy to remove all anti-vaccination or harmful “cure” books.
Among the dangerous autism “treatments” that were available on the UK version of the website were chemical baths and arsenic poisoning medications, according to an investigation published in WIRED.
Amazon is selling books that teach parents how to subject their autistic children to harmful “treatment” regimes that include drinking, bathing in and making enemas out of a toxic, bleach-like substance. Other pseudoscientific books available on the website instruct parents to force their children to undergo chelation — a treatment intended for arsenic and lead poisoning that caused the death of an autistic boy in 2005.
A search for “autism cure” on Amazon brings up dozens of books positing pseudoscientific solutions for autism spectrum disorder — a complex and lifelong developmental disability that has no known cure. But Amazon’s virtual bookshelves are stacked high with titles that recommend a long list of unproven and dangerous autism cures, including sex, yoga, camel milk, electroconvulsive therapy and veganism.
It’s important to note that Amazon officials don’t necessarily agree with these methods, but they weren’t doing anything to remove the books from their website, a tactic they have used in the past. If “items that Amazon deems offensive” are banned, according to the site’s policies in the U.S., why not items that could get children killed? Where’s the oversight?
One book, Healing the Symptoms Known As Autism, instructs parents in how to make chlorine dioxide — a bleach-like substance that is sometimes marketed as “Miracle Mineral Solution”. Although the substance has never been scientifically verified as a treatment for any condition, an Amazon search for “Miracle Mineral Solution” turns up more than 25 books extolling its supposed benefits.
In 2010, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that chlorine dioxide, used in this manner, “can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and symptoms of severe dehydration” and that it “poses a significant health risk to consumers who may choose to use this product for self-treatment”. On its product page, Amazon’s recommendation system suggests that people interested in the book might also like to purchase chlorine dioxide drops intended for water purification.
The author of the book, Kerri Rivera, is a prominent backer of autism pseudoscience who in 2015 signed an agreement with the Illinois attorney general’s office preventing her from promoting chlorine dioxide in the state. But the reviews under Healing the Symptoms Known As Autism suggest that parents are still discovering Rivera’s dangerous treatments.
That book wasn’t available on the U.S. version of Amazon, but the problem was so bad that WIRED successfully uploaded a fake Kindle book to the Amazon UK store called How To Cure Autism: A guide to using chlorine dioxide to cure autism and found it available for purchase within hours. Even worse:
When creating the book, Amazon’s Kindle publishing service suggested a stock cover image that made it appear as though the book had been approved by the FDA.
Yikes. Amazon needs to make it clear that books suggesting unproven, untested medical “cures” have no place on their site. If they don’t do that soon, they’ll have to do it while dealing with the fallout when a child inevitably dies at the hands of someone who read them. There’s no reason to wait any longer.
(Image via Shutterstock)