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False science led a mother to feed bleach to her autistic children – and the police did nothing to stop her



Laurel Austin documented her son Jeremy's first dose of chlorine dioxide on YouTube. In the 30-second video, Jeremy, 27, sits at the kitchen table while his mother recounts his mood. Then his arms seem to squirm involuntarily and he screams at his forearm before biting a banana, according to NBC News.

"This is to wait and pray," she says.

Austin, 51, is a photographer in Lenexa, Kansas, and the mother of six children, four of them adults with autism. Last year, according to her social media posts and documents a police investigation, Laurel Austin gave two of her adult children, Jeremy and Joshua, chlorine dioxide. The Food and Drug Administration warns that the solution is industrial bleach, and doctors say it can cause irreparable damage when ingested, including damage to the digestive system and kidneys.

Since January, when Bradley Austin discovered that his ex-wife was using chlorine dioxide in her children, he was trying to stop her. But local police, the state's adult services division and a doctor treating Jeremy declined to intervene. A police spokesman said there was not enough evidence that chlorine dioxide was dangerous; A social worker at Kansas Adult Protective Services told police she did not consider the situation so serious that the state could take action.

The case of Austins illustrates the ways in which online health misinformation can become so widespread that it begins to influence not only those who are looking for alternative treatments and explanations but also authorities.


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