Saturday, April 25, 2020

The Church of Bleach?

Okay, I'll admit it. One of the reasons for this post was to share "Bleach Boys" by the Dead Milkmen one more time, which has become bizarrely topical given some of the president's recent comments. But it also is true that according to this article from The Guardian, the story behind it is a lot weirder than Donald Trump just being ignorant about medical science. There's in fact an entire church founded on the idea that bleach is a miracle cure for all sorts of illnesses. Unsurprisingly, their main source of income is selling bleach. And they've been writing to Trump.

Trump did not specify where the idea of using disinfectant as a possible remedy for Covid-19 came from, and the source for his notion remains obscure. But the Guardian has learned that peddlers of chlorine dioxide – industrial bleach – have been making direct approaches to the White House in recent days.

Grenon styles himself as “archbishop” of Genesis II – a Florida-based outfit that claims to be a church but which in fact is the largest producer and distributor of chlorine dioxide bleach as a “miracle cure” in the US. He brands the chemical as MMS, “miracle mineral solution”, and claims fraudulently that it can cure 99% of all illnesses including cancer, malaria, HIV/Aids as well as autism.

Since the start of the pandemic, Genesis II has been marketing MMS as a cure to coronavirus. It advises users, including children, to mix three to six drops of bleach in water and drink it. In his weekly televised radio show, posted online on Sunday, Grenon read out the letter he wrote to Trump. He said it began: “Dear Mr President, I am praying you read this letter and intervene.”

Grenon said that 30 of his supporters have also written in the past few days to Trump at the White House urging him to take action to protect Genesis II in its bleach-peddling activities which they claim can cure coronavirus.

I should point out that to be fair, this church of bleach does NOT advocate just chugging chlorox or eating snowy bleach "right out of the box." They advocate diluting it down to levels that aren't going to kill anyone. But it's still not unfair to point out that there's no evidence this actually works and a lot of evidence that this church is selling a bunch of snake oil to their followers. And now they've gone and got the president involved.

As a scientific-minded person, I'm all for doing studies on weird potential cures of whatever sort. If somebody wants to do a medical study on diluted bleach for treating COVID-19 or any other illness I'm all for it. But until we can show that it actually has an effect, it's irresponsible to promote it as something people should be trying out.

UPDATE: The activities of the "church of bleach" have not gone unnoticed. Last week an injunction was issued to stop the church from selling their "miracle" bleach cure. While I'm generally in favor of religious freedom for all, it shouldn't extend to groups instructing their followers to poison themselves.

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