Last week, President Donald Trump said, “I see the disinfectant — where it knocks it out in a minute, one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning?” He’s since claimed that this statement was sarcastic, but him taking those remarks back in no way means that damage wasn’t done.
In one 18-hour period on Friday, New York Poison Control reportedly received 30 phone calls from people concerned that they’d ingested various household cleaners like bleach. That’s an uptick from just 18 phone calls in that time span last year, according to an NPR article published last week. While it’s unlikely that all of those are related to Trump’s comments, that dramatic of an uptick is unlikely to be entirely unrelated, especially when Trump’s supporters have a history of taking comments like this seriously.
It shouldn’t shock anyone reading this to know that ingesting disinfectants is a very, very bad idea, but it’s still worth reiterating: That is a very bad idea. Do not drink disinfectants. Drinking disinfectants like bleach can destroy your organs or kill you, according to the CDC.
Somewhat horrifically, the idea of drinking bleach is not new to fringe medical science. Drinking bleach has often been recommended as a “cure” for autism, as detailed in a NBC News article last year titled “Fake Science Led Mom to Feed Bleach to her Autistic Sons — And Police Did Nothing to Stop Her,” or in this Fox News article, “Parents feeding Kids bleach to ‘Cure Autism’ Draws Anger, Frustration.”
This is often a “cure” supported in the same false science groups where the idea of vaccines causing autism runs rampant. While the idea of feeding bleach, also known as chlorine dioxide, to autistic children might seem like torture and abuse, which is what it is, many parents who do this argue that they are simply trying to cure their children of being autistic.
Of course, there is no science to back up these claims, just as there is no science to back up the idea that coronavirus is cured by ingesting household cleaners that can kill it on surfaces. But just like in these autism parent groups, the fact that the claim is untrue is not the point. The point is that people believe it to be true, however false it is, and because of that, people do it. People drink bleach to cure coronavirus, or to prevent it, as two men in Georgia reportedly did last week.
In this age of fake news and fake science, false statements like the ones President Trump made last week can be the difference between life and death. The public deserves better than conspiracy theories and false statements from a president who routinely bashes legitimate scientific research and statements, such as when multiple sources warned him about the possibility of a pandemic. Statements like the ones made last week kill people, and the fact that the president doesn’t seem to care should be massively concerning to every decent human being.
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Ashton Stansel is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.