Officials in Argentina raided labs producing toxic bleach as a COVID-19 treatment after a misinformation campaign fueled its popularity
- Argentinian authorities raided labs producing a toxic bleach marketed as a miracle cure.
- The substance was fueled by an online misinformation campaign and has been linked to two deaths.
- Officials are investigating German national Andreas Kalcker’s role in promoting the bleach.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Prosecutors in Argentina have raided labs suspected of producing and selling the fake “miracle mineral solution,” a type of toxic bleach, as a treatment for COVID-19.
Officials raided six places where the substance was suspected of being produced or sold, with five located in suburbs of the Argentinian capital Buenos Aires and one in the coastal city of Mar del Plata, Argentinian newspaper La Tercera first reported Tuesday.
The details of the raids were confirmed to Insider by an Argentinian official.
As part of the raids, investigators seized quantities of chlorine dioxide, as well as bottles in which the substance was to be sold branded as “Miracle Mineral Solutions” or “MMS” as a treatment for COVID-19 and other illnesses.
The investigators also seized computers and electronic equipment.
MMS is how the substance is known to a large network of conspiracy theorists and alternative health advocates, which mainly operates online. The movement was inspired by a fake church in Florida whose leader, Jim Humble, claimed to have discovered its miraculous healing powers while on a jungle mission.
The followers claim, groundlessly, that MMS is a miracle cure for a range of illnesses and conditions, and is being suppressed by medical authorities. Chlorine dioxide’s common use is for treating wood products and stripping paint.
Public-health authorities including the Pan American Health Organization, the US Food and Drugs Administration, and Spain’s leading medical regulator, the Organización Médical Colegial, have issued warnings that consuming chlorine dioxide is potentially lethal, and that there is no evidence that it’s effective as a treatment for any illness. Marketing and selling it as a treatment is already banned in several countries.
Insider has reported on how advocates have seized on the COVID-19 pandemic to turbocharge the popularity of the substance in South America using Facebook.
Andreas Kalcker, a German self-described “biophysicist” with no medical qualifications, has played a key role in the campaign.
Wednesday’s raids were launched in connection with the investigation into Kalcker, which was started in EFbruary by Argentina’s medical regulator a five-year-old boy and 50-year-old man died after taking the substance. Kalcker has not been charged with any offenses.
Several Argentinian nationals are under investigation in connection with the premises raided on Wednesday, though no arrests were made and no charges were filed.
Kalcker, who is believed to reside in Switzerland, did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
In response to Argentinian authorities launching the investigation in February, he claimed that the doses he recommends of the substance is not toxic. He provided no evidence to substantiate this claim.
Argentina’s crackdown on the ring of advocates suspected of producing and promoting MMS contrasts with the response in neighboring Bolivia, where the government, ignoring a warning from its own ministry of health, embraced the substance and licensed it for mass production.
A conference for the promotion of MMS was held in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz De La Sierra on Wednesday. Listed speakers included Jim Humble, the founder of the Florida church where the movement originated.
Last July Mark Grenon, a leader of the church, was arrested in Colombia and charged with producing and selling MMS,. The substance has been linked to seven deaths in the US.
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