Laurel Austin documents the first dose of chlorine dioxide to her son Jeremy on YouTube. In a 30-second video broadcast on 4465 subscribers, Jeremy, 27, is sitting on a kitchen table while his mother tells him about his mood. Then his hands seem to involuntarily spin around each other and he screams in his hand before biting bananas. "" Here we hope and pray, "says Austin, 51, is a photographer in Linz. , Kansas and a mother of six, four of whom are adults with autism. According to her publications on Facebook, she has tried almost every whim "cure" for autism – a developmental disorder that has no treatment ̵
Joshua, 28, speaks and likes the Simpsons and plays retro games from Nintendo, while Jeremy, 27, does not speak and can get into rage during which he bites his hands, according to their father, Bradley Austin, who has provided police investigations to NBC News. Joshua and Jeremy live with Laurel Austin, who is appointed by a court steward, charged with making medical and other decisions for them. Jeremy lives in a group while his mother does not take him out to try chlorine dioxide, according to his father.
Since January, when Bradley Austin learned that his ex-wife used chlorine dioxide to his sons, he was trying to stop her. (He also investigated the fight to steal his sons.) But the local police, the State Service for Adult Protection, and the doctor treating Jeremy refused to intervene. A spokesman for the police said there was not enough evidence that chlorine dioxide was dangerous; An employee of the Kansas Advocacy Service told the police that he did not see the situation as serious enough for the state to take action.
A case of Austin shows how online health disinformation can become so widespread that not only those on the edge who are looking for alternative treatments and explanations but also authorities, including doctors and police officers accused of protection of the most vulnerable.
"Health disinformation began to permeate more often," said Dr Brittany Seymour, an associate at the Harvard University School of Dentistry, who is studying online health misinformation. "Historically, we relied on the authority of scientific papers with paid access and there were naturally limiting factors that kept the spread of disinformation, such as geographic and communication barriers. With the help of the Internet and social media, these barriers have been removed.
These obstacles are used to keep disinformation from a dangerous level, Seymour said. "Voice sharing and the spread of disinformation are still small, but we know it really takes only a few now and can spread far. So the number may be small, but the impact is not. "
The lack of responsiveness by the Kansas authorities confused Bradley Austin, who thinks he lacks the ability to protect his sons from" treating "his mother.
"I just want her to stop," he told NBC News.
It is not clear whether the sons of bleach were harmed. Bradley Austin told the police that Joshua's blood tests in January returned without any anomalies. In a video posted on YouTube, Laurel Austin said Jeremy refused to be tested.
Laurel Austin declined to be interviewed but said in response to emailed questions that NBC News was "used as a shameful means of misrepresentation by a missing father as a means of reducing or even lifting his maintenance obligation child to the sons of his autistic needs. "
Bradley Austin denies this feature. Last year in Austin there was a court date to renegotiate child support, but Bradley Austin said he was not concerned about his concerns about the use of chlorine dioxide by his ex-wife.
Laurel Austin answered:
The Chlorine Dioxide that Laurel Austin gave to her sons was made by mixing a solution of sodium chlorite with an acid activator – both of which are available online for about $ 20. The solution was first propagated about two decades ago by former scientist Jim Humble as "The Miracle Mineral Solution," or MMS for short, and sold as a cure for AIDS, cancer and almost every other a disease known to mankind.
Doctors say the only effects of chlorine dioxide are harmful, warning that it can damage tissues in the digestive system, disrupt the functioning of red blood cells and lead to kidney failure.
Kerri Rivera, a former Chicago real estate agent who is not the Doctor, clings to the so-called treatment and started offering it to the parents of autistic children around 2012, to write a book, and to attend seminars and of the YouTube channels for popular conspiracy theorists at a time when autism diagnoses have increased. Rivera declined to comment
Even when the FDA issued warnings about chlorine dioxide – saying it could cause "severe nausea, vomiting, and life-threatening low blood pressure from dehydration," and the Justice Department pursues several vendors who place a chemical on the market as a miracle, and Rivera claims to have sold dozens. from thousands of copies of her book describing the chlorine dioxide protocol before Amazon banned the title in April. Facebook and YouTube followed the example by deleting accounts and videos promoting chlorine dioxide with thousands of subscribers and millions of opinions after being pressured by legislators and public health advocates to take responsibility for spreading health disinformation on their platforms.
Let's say it is effective when dealing with anti-vaccination and false disinformation, and this is particularly important during health crises, such as the current national rebirth of measles. But true believers – including some parents who desperately need a medicine for their autistic children – will still find a way to access untrue information. "The moderteness of content can really help to limit what it informs about the decisions people make," said Nat Geenes, head of the program at the Meedan Society for Social Technologies, who is also studying technology and health at the Internet Center and a Berkman Klein Society in Harvard. "But at the same time, people who want or are determined to look for another misinformation will find it on the Internet."
Laurel Austin is so determined. In her spare time, she is dealing with conspiracy theories, hosted or appearing in anti-vaccination radio programs and videos – several with the Rivera itself. According to her social media publications, Austin is also a "flat landlord" and attends annual conferences with other enthusiasts of the unscientific idea that the world is not holy.
Anatomy of the investigation
Dad in the night in January when his stepmother, retired registered nurse Kerry Austin, opened the bottle his mother had sent along with the guide to take a glass full of solution every two hours, from 7am to 9pm
The Chroma smell almost knocked me off, "said Kerry Austin.
Bradley Austin called for poison control, then handed the solution to Lenex's police department and Joshua to the blood test hospital, who returned normally. In the police investigation, Bradley Austin shared with NBC News, and this was confirmed by a police spokesman, Lenexa's policeman wrote that "he could smell the huge smell of bleach." The gaseous odor smelled of chlorine and was very strong. As part of his investigation, a policeman named Kansa's Poison Control Center talked to a pharmacist who said he was familiar with the chlorine dioxide solution and advised the policeman that he was not safe for consumption, according to the investigation notes.
This awareness probably comes from experience. Over the past five years, poison control centers have managed 16,521 cases nationwide dealing with chlorine dioxide, according to data provided by the American Association of Poison Control Centers. At least 50 of the cases were considered life-threatening, and eight people died. It is unclear how many of the cases included people with autism.
According to the investigation's notes, having talked to Bradley Austin, the officers went to Laurel Austin's home. She told the police that she was following Rivera's Chlorine Dioxide protocol and said she had seen an improvement in her son's behavior since she started giving her the decision. The police watched both Joshua and Jeremy and decided they were happy and healthy, and none of them seemed ill.
Laurel Austin showed online police articles on chlorine dioxide, including one from the Institute for the Study of Autism, one of the first and most vocal organizations to insist on the discrediting theory that vaccines cause autism. This 2015 article claims that the decision has the potential to heal, but it is ultimately advised not to use it, according to the inquiries of the investigation. "This legitimizes Laurel's statement on the use of MMS CLO2 as a holistic approach to treatment," the officer said. Laurel Austin contacted the officer by sending a link to a YouTube video on Rivera explaining the chlorine dioxide protocol.
According to the notes, officials were also convinced by a document titled "Jeremy Austin's Daily List of Supplements." The line of the document reads: "MMS Chlorine Dioxide (CD / MMS) drops 16 doses per day every hour." The list is stamped and signed by Dr. Sarita Singh, primary medical care at Kansas University MedWest Clinic for Family Medicine.
The police spoke to Singh, who confirmed that she had approved the list of additives, including chlorine dioxide. After a visit with Laurel Austin and Joshua, Singh sent a letter to the police stating that chlorine dioxide was "benign and non-toxic," according to the records of the investigation.
Singh is on maternity leave and does not respond to requests for comment. Jill Chadwick, director of media relations at the Kansas University Health System, who monitors Singh's practice, quotes confidentiality laws in a comment that is diminishing. "But even if you call the mother and make her sign a denial, we're talking," Chadwick says, "we have nothing to add to this story at the moment. "
In a video on YouTube published in March, Laurel explained how she found doctors wishing to sign the chlorine dioxide protocol. – Actually, I found some doctors. Just by visiting the Institute of Functional Medicine website and putting it in your area, and they can bring doctors you did not even know they were there.
The Institute for Functional Medicine is a professional association focusing on alternative medicine. , which describes it as an "individualized, patient-oriented, science-based approach that enables patients and practitioners to work together to tackle the root causes of the disease and promote optimal health." He worked as a non-profit organization and earned $ 16 million in 2017.
Doctors criticize the organization's popularization of vitamins, probiotics and parasitic cleansing in the treatment of various diseases without scientific evidence that they are working. The founder of the institute agreed with the medical consensus that the autism was caused by toxins in the environment and could be cured by changes in diet and supplemental nutrition. "IFM does not support the use of chlorine dioxide, nor do we include this biochemistry in our programs," Amy Mac CEO of the Institute for Functional Medicine wrote in an email to NBC News. "We have concerns about potential side effects."
There are 12 practitioners listed in the IFM database in the Laurel Austin area, according to a search on the association's website. Singh is not among them.
"So far I have found three doctors to sign this," Laurel Austin said in the video. – And let's say they use it too.
There is no evidence of a crime.
Bradley Austin's call was not the first time anyone had told the police about Laurel Austin's attitude to his sons. Last November, an Optis Services Officer, a daily program for people with disabilities in development in Maryam, Kansas, called on the police to announce that Laurel Austin gave Jeremy chlorine dioxide to the parking lot after employees refused to do so . Laurel Austin describes this police incident as part of the January investigation.
Laurel Austin answered, leaving a negative review in April on the organization's Google page. In the review she wrote that she was "blinded" by the center who called the police when she had a note from a doctor who supported the use of chlorine dioxide. But she went on: "All the stress and anxiety have finally come to an end today when I have two more doctors who sign this protocol five months later."
The Options Services owner did not return a phone call asking for a comment, but
"I'm sorry that you are unhappy that we contacted the police as ordered by the Poison Control to get your son to drink bleach," the owner replied, saying that Jeremy had vomited the smell of the decision people get sick. "What you force your son to do at your time is undoubtedly your business, but we will not be put in a position to contribute to harm to anyone."
The Services Report of Options has led to an investigation by Kansas Adult Protective Services, the police papers. An employee on the case visited Laurel Austin's home, looked at the chlorine dioxide bottle and the doctor's note and contacted Jeremy, noting that it did not seem to have any negative side effects. "Although the MMS protocol is controversial, he does not meet the threshold for the removal of Lauren Austin's sons, according to the case's rapporteur."
A representative of the Kansas Advocacy Service refused to comment, citing privacy laws. "There was no legal ground to feel that they were in imminent danger," the report said.
"We concluded our case without evidence for punishment "said Danny Chavez, a police officer in the police department of Lenzex, Chavez said the police could hypothetically charge if Laurel Austin was feeding his sons with something like gasoline, but when it comes to chlorine dioxide," we have no evidence that it is a super dangerous poison. "
What do we have to look at, is there any intention to commit a crime? Whether something is a good practice and whether something goes up to the level of crime is two separate things. "
Bradley and Kerry Austin are not talking to Laurel Austin and have not seen or heard of Jeremy or Joshua since the police closed in January. Although they pay child support, they do not have legal rights for young men because they are not included as guardians.