Amazon has removed at least two listings for books containing nonscientific “cures” for autism, including drinking and bathing in a bleach-like substance and ingesting a drug used to treat lead poisoning.
Healing the Symptoms Known as Autism and Fight Autism and Win, both previously on sale through the retail giant, were not available on Wednesday.
The move comes around two weeks after Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) sent a letter to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos scolding him for doing little to combat some parents’ belief that vaccines cause autism. Schiff accused Amazon of “surfacing and recommending products and content that discourage parents from vaccinating their children,” and urged Bezos to find a way to “distinguish quality information from misinformation or misleading information.”
Activists have also stepped up efforts to combat vaccine misinformation in light of a preventable nationwide measles outbreak.
The specific titles removed were scrutinized in a Monday article on Wired UK, which detailed the volumes’ medically questionable content. The outlet reported Amazon’s digital shelves were “stacked high” with books recommending a strange array of unproven cures for autism “including sex, yoga, camel milk, electroconvulsive therapy and veganism.”
Another title mentioned by Wired, The Miracle Mineral Supplement of the 21st Century, was also unavailable.
Amazon confirmed to HuffPost that all three titles had been removed but would not give a reason. Other books that seemed to make medically unfounded claims about autism treatments were still easy to find on the site.
Healing the Symptoms Known as Autism recommends that children with autism drink and bathe in chlorine dioxide, sometimes called a “Miracle Mineral Solution.” It is commonly used as an industrial cleaning agent that can cause dehydration and nausea if ingested. Fight Autism and Win instructs parents to give autistic children repeated doses of DMSA, a drug used to treat lead poisoning but that the FDA cautions can be dangerous if not taken under medical supervision.
The Miracle Mineral Supplement of the 21st Century, used as a general example of the type of medical misinformation available on Amazon, alleged that chlorine dioxide could cure everything from malaria to cancer.
While there are accepted medical treatment options for autism, there is no known cure. Researchers have repeatedly disproven any link between childhood vaccinations and the onset of autism. In 2010, the journal The Lancet retracted a widely criticized study that it had published in 1998 and which vaccine opponents had used to prove their fears were justified.
(Vox has a very good, very complete explanation of vaccines and what drives the anti-vaccine movement.)
Although it remains a hugely popular bookseller, Amazon does not appear to have strict rules in place to prevent sellers from using its platform to spread medically dangerous information.
Wired UK writer Matt Reynolds explained how remarkably easy it was to list a book on the site. When Reynolds created a fake Kindle book titled How to Cure Autism: A Guide to Using Chlorine Dioxide to Cure Autism, the fabricated volume was approved for sale “within two hours.” The site’s Kindle publishing service even suggested a stock image showing a red “approved” stamp over the letters “FDA.”