Church's 'cure-all' sparks reaction

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 January, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 January, 2004, 12:00am

You may have learned about hydrogen peroxide in your chemistry lessons - it is an antiseptic agent.

But you may not know that it is also reputed to have therapeutic value.

In 1996, the Church of Zion caused a furore in Hong Kong for promoting the drinking of hydrogen peroxide as a cure-all.

The church cited research which claimed that about 35 illnesses were caused by harmful microbes breeding inside the human body.

It said an effective treatment would be to kill the microbes by forming oxygen inside the body through drinking hydrogen peroxide.

The claim was disputed by doctors, who warned that while oxygen can be formed when hydrogen peroxide reacts with local tissue, oxygen bubbles can obstruct blood flow to vital organs, causing confusion, seizures, respiratory failures and heart attacks.

Concentrated hydrogen peroxide could also cause stomach perforation. In fact, press reports at the time said a man suffered from an intestinal ulcer after drinking 27 drops of the chemical.

But the church countered that the medical establishment had a conspiracy to keep the 'secret' about the efficacy of hydrogen peroxide from the people.

Believing in the curative effect of the chemical, many church members drank it frequently to strengthen their health and ward off illnesses.

Some of them were so convinced of the chemical's reputed curative effects that they even asked their children to drink it.

According to media reports this week, the church has become active again, having dodged media attention for some years.

This time around, hydrogen peroxide is even billed as capable of preventing Sars.

They are said to be particularly active in Tin Shui Wai, where the church has about 600 members.

Some church members teaching in schools in the district have reportedly induced their students to become members.

Do you think the government should ban the consumption of hydrogen peroxide and stop people from promoting its alleged curative effects?

I urge you to take a closer look at press reports about the church and try to come up with your own views on the matter.

As I see it, the question touches on several issues, such as whether hydrogen peroxide really has any curative effect, whether people should be left to decide for themselves what to consume, and whether the promotion of something with dubious medicinal value should be banned.

You should also try to find out if the Church of Zion's promotion of hydrogen peroxide has anything to with its religious teachings, in which case freedom of religion would also be an issue.

CKLau is Executive Editor (News) of the South China Morning Post