An alternative health advocate who popularized drinking bleach as a COVID-19 cure in South America is under investigation after 2 deaths
- Prosecutors in Argentina are investigating Andreas Kalcker, who popularized the bleach Chlorine Dioxide as a COVID-19 treatment.
- A boy, 5, and man, 50, died last year in Argentina after taking the substance.
- Chlorine dioxide has soared in popularity in South America, despite prominent warnings.
Prosecutors in Argentina are investigating Andreas Kalcker, a German self-described health researcher who popularized taking a type of bleach to treat COVID-19.
The development comes after a 5-year-old boy and 50-year-old man died after taking the substance.
Insider last year exposed how Kalcker was an architect of the shocking surge in popularity in South America of chlorine dioxide, also known as Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS).
The substance is a type of bleach commonly used to treat paper products. However, an group of advocates, working mostly online, have convinced many that it has miraculous powers to cure diseases including COVID-19.
Public health authorities including the Pan American Health Organization, Spain's Organización Médical Colegial, and the US Food and Drug Administration have all rejected the claim.
They say that there is no evidence that chlorine dioxide is effective as a treatment for COVID-19 or any illness, and warn that if taken in large doses it can be fatal.
A spokesperson for the Argentine government confirmed to Insider that an investigation had been launched into Kalcker.
The spokesperson represents the UFIMA agency (Unidad Fiscal para la Investigación de Delitos contra el Medio Ambiente) agency, which investigates medical crimes.
The UFIMA spokesperson said that after an initial investigation, the matter was referred to federal prosecutors who probe serious crimes.
Insider understands that Kalcker has not been formally charged with any crimes.
According to the Argentinian legal documents seen by Insider, Kalcker is in Switzerland. In a response to Insider's request for comment, he did not directly address the allegations, but argued that chlorine dioxide in the doses he recommends is not toxic.
In a statement to Insider last year he defended his promotion of MMS, claiming to have evidence of its effectiveness. He described campaigns to stop people from using it as a form of "genocide."
The complaint was filed by Victor Castillejo Arias, a lawyer who told Insider that a relative of his fell seriously ill after taking chlorine dioxide.
He shared the documents with Insider, which center on Kalcker's alleged role, through online statements and videos, conferences and books, in persuading people in Argentina that MMS has curative properties.
The movement encouraged the parents of a five-year-old boy to give the child the substance to treat a cough, the documents say.
The child, from Neuquen, western Argentina, was found to have died as a result of multiple organ failure consistent with chlorine dioxide poisoning in August last year, local media reported.
A 50-year old man from Jujuy, northwestern Argentina, had died only weeks before having taken the substance.
Arias alleges that Kalcker is falsely posing as a medical authority, and profiting from the promotion of quack cures, in crimes which local media report carry a 25 year sentence if found to have caused deaths. Several Argentinian nationals are also under investigation following the complaint.
—Luigino Bracci Roa (@lubrio) August 15, 2020
In recent months the popularity of chlorine dioxide treatments has taken hold in Argentina, with a TV presenter consuming a bottle live on air, and a judge in Buenos Aires controversially overriding medics to order a clinic to administer the bleach to 92-year-old man dying of COVID-19.
Kalcker has long been among the most prominent advocates of chlorine dioxide treatments, which he calls CDS.
Last year, Kalcker focused his attentions on promoting the bleach as a COVID-19 cure in South America, as the pandemic swept the continent.
His book, "Forbidden Health," has previously been banned by Amazon for promoting medical misinformation.
In Bolivia, Kalcker's teamed up with a group of medics called COMUSAV to advocate for chlorine dioxide treatments. Their campaign gained traction with lawmakers from the left-wing populist MAS party.
After winning the presidency in last year's election, MAS has approved chlorine dioxide as a COVID-19 treatment, overruling an earlier warning from the country's health ministry about its dangers.
Experts have told Insider that social media misinformation is fuelling the movement, alongside fear of COVID-19 and lack of access to healthcare.
Last year Mark Grenon, another prominent advocate of the bleach cure from Florida, was arrested in Colombia after being charged by investigators in the US.
They allege that chlorine dioxide treatments have played a role in seven deaths in the US.
Ruqayyah Moynihan contributed reporting for this article.
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