Consumer Health Digest #15-26
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
July 5, 2015
Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., with help from William M. London, Ed.D., M.P.H. It summarizes scientific reports; legislative developments; enforcement actions; news reports; Web site evaluations; recommended and nonrecommended books; and other information relevant to consumer protection and consumer decision-making.
California limits vaccination refusal. Governor Jerry Brown has signed SB277 into law, making California the third state in the nation to require immunizations of schoolchildren and children in child care centers without exemption for religious or personal beliefs. The other two states are Mississippi and West Virginia. California is also the first state to repeal a religious exemption from immunizations. Two months ago, Vermont repealed its "philosophical" exemption from immunizations and became the first state to repeal any personal belief exemption. However, it still permits religious exemptions. All states permit exemption on medical grounds. The American Medical Association recently expressed support for tighter limitations on immunization opt outs.
Major MMS marketer curbed in Illinois. The Illinois Attorney General has obtained an agreement under which Kerri Rivera is barred from promoting Miracle Mineral Supplement (MMS) as an autism cure in Illinois. MMS contains a 28% solution of sodium chlorite, which, when mixed with an acid such as citrus juice, produces chlorine dioxide (ClO2), a potent bleach used for stripping textiles and industrial water treatment. High oral doses, such as those recommended in MMS labeling, can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and severe dehydration. Sodium chlorite is not legal to sell for human consumption, and legitimate suppliers of the chemical include a warning sheet stating that it can cause potentially fatal side effects if swallowed. Rivera, who has no recognized health-related credentials, claims that autism is caused by parasites and can be cured by MMS. She lives in Mexico but markets MMS worldwide and has promoted it repeatedly at AutismOne, the Chicago-based annual meeting that serves as autism quackery's premier showcase. Prior to this year's conference, more than 1,000 parents signed a petition protesting Rivera's appearance and some even picketed the hotel where the meeting was scheduled to take place. After NBC5-TV aired a very critical report, a representative of the attorney general's office attended Rivera's talk and the AG's office demanded substantiation of her claims. Apparently unable to do this, she signed an assurance of voluntary compliance. Meanwhile, more than 5,000 people have signed a petition asking Amazon to stop selling Rivera's book, Healing the Symptoms Known As Autism. Quackwatch has additional details about enforcement actions against MMS.
McCaskill continues to attack robocalls. U.S. Senators Claire McCaskill [D-MO] and Susan Collins [R-ME] have held another hearing and co-sponsored a bill intended to curb the nuisance of unwanted robocalls, most of which are scams. The hearing, held on June 10 by the Senate Select Committee on Aging, was opened with a vivid demonstration of spoofing by Collins and a staff member. (Caller ID spoofing is the practice of causing the telephone network to indicate to the receiver of a call that the originator of the call is a station other than the true originating station.) Four witnesses then testified:
- Linda Blase, a businesswoman from Dallas, Texas, described fraudulent calls she had received and said it was about time that phone companies take steps to block the unwanted calls.
- Henning Schulzrinne, a professor at Columbia University, described the complex ways that robocalls can be routed, how technology that can be used to stop fake caller IDs, and how providers and recipients can control which calls get through.
- Lois Greisman,
Associate Director of the FTC's Division of Marketing Practices, said that since 2009, the FTC has filed 37 cases against 121 companies and 90 individuals responsible for billions of illegal robocalls, but fraudsters who spoof their numbers and hide in other countries are making enforcement more difficult.
- Joe Dandurand, a
Deputy Attorney General from Missouri noted that his office received far more complaints about unwanted and illegal telemarketing calls than about any other issue.
The McCaskill/Collins Robocall and Call Spoofing Enforcement Improvements Act (S1540), would (a) require that providers of a spoofing service ensure that their services are not being used for illegal purposes, (b) make it easier for U.S. enforcement officials to go after violators operating outside the United States, and (c) increase penalties for violators.
This page was posted on July 5, 2015.