Debunking "Alternative" Medicine

Unraveling Pathetic Bleach Apologetics

CD is bleach

Bleach apologists advocate the treatment of cancer, malaria, HIV, autism and other conditions with a chlorine-based bleach called chlorine dioxide. There is no scientific evidence whatsoever that chlorine dioxide treats any medical condition. It is a bleach used for water treatment or pulp bleaching.

However, bleach apologists have not stood unopposed. Scientific skeptics and public health experts have been speaking out against this kind of pseudoscientific quackery. So bleach apologists have decided to strike back by attempting to spread an image meme across Facebook and other social media sites. They want to argue that chlorine dioxide is safe for human consumption at high concentrations and that it is, in fact, not a form of bleach. Click the image to the right to see the full-resolution screenshot.

Let us take it apart, claim by claim.

Protecting people against drinking bleach does not “endanger lives”

Drinking any form of bleach, bathing in it or using it as enema is dangerous. This is because, among other things, bleaches are oxidizers. Oxidizers steal electrons from other substances, effectively oxidizing them. The body contains many important components such as proteins, carbohydrates and fats and all of these are susceptible to oxidation. Oxidation occur all the time in the body as part of normal metabolism, but it is delicately controlled by enzymes and various protective systems. If you drink bleach, you take in large concentrations and amounts of oxidizers, and this damages key components of the body. Above and beyond that, different kinds of bleaches have different kinds of harmful effects in the body, but they are all oxidizers. This is an inescapable fact.

There is no known health benefits with drinking bleach. It may purify water, but that does not mean that it kills pathogens in the body and certainly not that it treats medical conditions that are not due to pathogens. So protecting people from drinking bleach makes sense from the perspective of human health.

Bleach apologists, on the other hand, seems to seriously believe that protecting people from bleach by informing them about these scientific facts by itself qualifies as endangering human life. Let that sink in for a moment. Bleach apologists think that protecting people from drinking bleach risks human life. This is shows beyond a shadow of a doubt how far down the rabbit hole of pseudoscientific quackery bleach apologists have fallen.

Bleach is a name for a class of chemicals, not just sodium hypochlorite

The next kind of bleach apologetics is based on denying that chlorine dioxide is a type of bleach. They do this by conflating the narrow every-day definition of household bleach (sodium hypochlorite) with the chemical definition of chlorine-based bleach (which is any chemical used to whiten or sterilize substances that contain chlorine). According to the CDC, chlorine dioxide is a chlorine-based bleaching agent:

Chlorine dioxide is a yellow to reddish-yellow gas that can decompose rapidly in air. Because it is a hazardous gas, chlorine dioxide is always made at the location where it is used. Chlorine dioxide is used as a bleach at pulp mills, which make paper and paper products, and in public water-treatment facilities, to make water safe for drinking.

Notice that the concentrations used for water-treatment is very low:

The EPA has set the maximum concentration in the drinking water at 0.8 milligrams per liter (mg/L) for chlorine dioxide and 1.0 mg/L for chlorite ion. The concentrations of chlorine dioxide and chlorite ion in your drinking water, however, may be lower or higher than these levels.

As the No More Bleach website has pointed out, the concentrations advocated by bleach apologists is abut 3000x the maximum concentration set by the EPA.

The dose makes the poison, and the dose recommended by bleach apologists is over three orders of magnitude higher than the maximum concentration in drinking water.

Why is chlorine dioxide used in pulp mills? For bleaching, of course!

Some readers might argue that the reason bleach apologists do not consider chlorine dioxide to be a bleach is simply because they do not know enough about chemistry. This is a very polite explanation, but reality may be even more sinister. Why?

Because the bleach apologist picture acknowledges that chlorine dioxide is used in pulp mills. For them to find the information that chlorine dioxide is used in pulp mills, but not the reason why (bleaching) sounds highly implausible. The alternative model is that they really know that chlorine dioxide is used in pulp mills as bleach, but intentionally neglected to mention that in their social media meme. Of course, if they had mentioned it, they would have undermined their entire convoluted assertion that chlorine dioxide is not a type of bleach.


Debunker of pseudoscience.

10 thoughts on “Unraveling Pathetic Bleach Apologetics

  • are they natural pulp mills though? 😛

  • Emil Karlsson,

    Protecting people against drinking bleach does not “endanger lives”

    And truth be told its hard to believe anyone would think that, given the facts. I mean it should be incredibly easy for anyone to find out that drinking bleach is harmful. Aren’t there warning labels on cleaning products such as bleach?

    Seriously if it was safe to drink, why would they tell you to wear gloves?

    Not to mention warnings to keep it out of the reach of children due to how corrosive it is.

    Seriously its not like anyone who could read a ridiculous pro bleach drinking website couldn’t also read those.

    • So those products are household bleach (sodium hypochlorite), whereas the quacks recommend another kind of bleach (chlorine dioxide). Victims of bleach apologetics do not actually believe that chlorine dioxide is a form of bleach. So reading warning labels on household bleach is probably not producing any cognitive revelation for those victims.

    • Emil Karlsson,

      Thanks. I didn’t realize that.

      I guess it explains why warning labels on household bleach aren’t very effective than? Governments should require companies to put warning labels on chlorine dioxide than as well, in the hopes that one of these people just happens to notice it, and changes their minds. Not mention that I think you need to be careful around that anyway as well, even if you don’t drink it.

    • Governments should require companies to put warning labels on chlorine dioxide than as well […]

      Sellers are forced to include a warning sheet about “potentially fatal side effects if swallowed” when selling one of the precursors of chlorine dioxide.

      However, these quacks can buy cheap chlorine dioxide or a precursor in bulk from China and then repackage it for “waste water treatment” (with a wink and a nudge) and sell it online. So they are very experienced with escaping various consumer protection measures.

  • Seems to me if our bleach advocates continue with their dosing, the problem will take care of itself.

    Problem though is many of these ignoramuses have children. As well as no small amount of gullibility out there residing within the general public. I do wish the gov’t would crack down on homeopathy, and related quackery. Of course even if that happened the quacks would continue to fleece the gullible, but they would at least have to resort to back alley offices or work out of their van.

    • Seems to me if our bleach advocates continue with their dosing, the problem will take care of itself.

      Tempting idea, but the health consequence of drinking bleaches fall on the victims and not necessarily the people making tons of money selling it to desperate people.

      I do wish the gov’t would crack down on homeopathy, and related quackery.

      Yeah, I would not mind seeing legislation like what we have in Sweden: quacks are not allowed to treat things like cancer or HIV, and are also banned from treating young children.

      As well as no small amount of gullibility out there residing within the general public.

      We should also keep in mind that the victims of bleach quacks are probably at the worst place in their lives (e. g. just diagnosed with cancer) and so may not be reasoning as effectively as the usually would have. Desperation has a tendency to disable critical thinking, above-and-beyond gullibility.

    • You make excellent points sir. Yes, my first comment there was more snark than hopeful reality, you are correct that the propagators of the quackery seldom follow their own advice.

      And also true, the quacks catch people in a bad place in their lives, but I can’t for the life of me understand anyone who decides that drinking bleach would be a great idea under any circumstances. But hey, I am a confirmed cynical old bastard. 🙂

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