Two mothers are infiltrating online groups where members claim children with autism can be ‘cured’ by ingesting toxic chemicals.
Melissa Eaton, from Salisbury, North Carolina, and Amanda Seigler, from Lake Worth, Florida, who each have a child with autism, came across several groups – mainly on Facebook – claiming that chlorine dioxide, an industrial strength bleach, could treat the disorder.
To enter the groups, Eaton and Seigler created fake profiles, pretending to be parents of children with autism and looking for answers or treatments.
Then, they took screenshots of the posts, in which parents suggest feeding their children the chemicals, reported NBC News.
Next, Eaton, 39, and Seigler, 38, notified local child protection agencies of abuse. So far, they claim they have reported at least 100 cases over the last three years.
Melissa Eaton, 39 (left), of Salisbury, North Carolina, and Amanda Seigler, 38 (right), of Lake Worth, Florida, have been infiltrating online groups for three years. The groups suggest that feeding children chlorine dioxide, an industrial strength bleach, can ‘cure’ autism
The ‘cure’ was popularized by former Chicago real estate agent Kerri Rivera (pictured), who claims to have reversed autism symptoms in more than 500 children
Eaton and Seigler told NBC News that some of the discoveries they found in these groups were horrifying.
One mother from Kansas wrote in the Facebook group after feeding her child chlorine dioxide: ‘My son is constantly making a gasping sound.’
Another mother from Canada wrote that her toddler was refusing to drink the concoction. ‘He won’t open his mouth. He screams. Spits. Flips over,’ she wrote.
Eaton and Seigler said the groups were like a cult.
‘It really weighs on you, but kids are being abused,’ Eaton told NBC News. ‘You see it. You have the choice of doing something about it or letting it go. And I’m not the kind of person who can see something like that and just forget about it.’
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder in which sufferers have a hard time communicating and with behavior.
It encompasses several conditions – including autism, Asperger’s syndrome and childhood disintegrative disorder – and symptoms can range from mild to severe.
Children are usually diagnosed by age two after they exhibit signs such as reduced eye contact, not responding to their name and performing repetitive movements.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in 59 children has ASD.
Scientists do not know what causes ASD, but believe it is a combination of genes and environmental factors.
Eaton (pictured) and Seigler, who each have autistic children, take screenshots of the posts and notify local child protection agencies of child abuse
Poison control centers have warned that the chemical can irritate the eyes and skin, and even lead to a build-up of fluid in the lungs. Pictured: Seigler
The parents in several of these groups that Eaton and Seigler infiltrated believe autism is caused by a multitude of things, including viruses, bacteria, vaccines, parasites and even gluten.
The treatments they suggest are bizarre, to say the least, and include turpentine and a child’s own urine.
But perhaps the most popular is chlorine dioxide, a chemical compound used in the bleaching of wood pulp and in disinfecting municipal drinking water.
Parents administer it orally or via enemas.
The idea of chlorine dioxide being promoted as a cure was first popularized by Jim Humble, an ex-Scientologist.
However, it was popularized by former Chicago real estate agent Kerri Rivera, who wrote about it in her 2013 book Healing the Symptoms Known as Autism.
Rivera, who does not have a medical degree, said she treated her own autistic son with the chlorine dioxide and has promoted it across social media.
According to NBC News, she claims to have cured more than 500 children of autism.
Rivera’s book has been banned by Amazon, her email account was deleted by Yahoo and several of her YouTube videos have been deleted
In a statement to the outlet, she wrote: ‘This is a medical issue. I have a degree in homeopathy and work with MDs and PhD scientists.’
However, breathing in chlorine dioxide can irritate the eyes, the skin and the nose, according to the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services.
Being exposed in higher amounts can lead to a build-up of fluid in the lungs, shortness of breath and jaundice, or yellowing of the skin.
In one case, a six-year-old boy reportedly had his bowel removed and was fitted with a colostomy bag after repeatedly receiving these enemas, according to The Daily Mirror.
Over the last five years, more than 16,000 cases have been reported across the US, data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers shows.
About 2,500 were for children under age 12, although it can’t be determined how many – if any – were autistic.
NBC News reported that 50 of these cases were considered life-threatening and eight resulted in death.
In March, Amazon banned Rivera’s book and YouTube took down several of her videos. Yahoo deleted her email account and Facebook also shut down several of her pages
Rivera told NBC News in an email that Amazon’s banning her book would ‘decrease public awareness’ of her message and that the tech giant was ‘responding to media-generated hysteria.’
However, Rivera has since created new Facebook pages, seen by DailyMail.com prior to publication. She did not respond to a request for comment.
Eaton and Seigler say they are still watching her on various social media platforms, looking for new pages and groups.
‘Her profile needs to go and they need to ban her IP address,’ Eaton told NBC News.