Amazon removed at least two book titles from their site just days after a March 11 story published by Wired revealed that the e-commerce site approved books for sale that recommend dangerous "autism cures." According to the CDC, one in 59 children in the U.S. has been identified with autism spectrum disorder. It has no medical cure. But the books removed by Amazon nevertheless offer suggestions that range from the benign (yoga and veganism) to the undeniably harmful (electroconvulsive therapy and ingesting the bleach-like substance chlorine dioxide.)
The FDA released a statement in 2010 advising against the use of chlorine dioxide, called the "Miracle Mineral Solution" by those who favor it as a cure-all solution to health maladies: "The FDA has received several reports of health injuries from consumers using this product, including severe nausea, vomiting, and life-threatening low blood pressure from dehydration. Consumers who have MMS should stop using it immediately and throw it away."
Despite this, books suggesting it as a cure for autism were being sold on Amazon. According to the Wired article:
"An Amazon spokesperson refused to confirm that it had any system in place to prevent medically dangerous information from being sold on its website. To test the system, we uploaded a fake Kindle book titled How To Cure Autism: A guide to using chlorine dioxide to cure autism. The listing was approved within two hours. When creating the book, Amazon’s Kindle publishing service suggested a stock cover image that made it appear as though the book had been approved by the FDA."
In a statement to NBC, Amazon confirmed that the two books specifically mentioned in the Wired article are no longer available for sale on their site, but they declined to "answer specific questions about why it had removed them or whether they were part of a larger cleanup effort, citing a policy of not commenting on individual accounts."
A debunked claim that childhood vaccines cause autism has led to an expanding "anti-vaxxer" population in recent years. Growing numbers of children without vaccinations have resulted in disease outbreaks across the U.S. — including unprecedented measles outbreaks in New York and Oregon, despite the fact that measles was declared eradicated from the United States in 2000.
This isn't the first time that Amazon has become involved in an anti-vax controversy. On March 5, an article in The Guardian revealed that AmazonSmile helps fund anti-vaccine groups by allowing shoppers to donate to an organization of their choosing — including anti-vaccine groups.
On March 7, Facebook announced that they would "tackle vaccine misinformation on Facebook by reducing its distribution and providing people with authoritative information on the topic" including removing advertisements from prominent anti-vaxxer Larry Cook.