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Joseph Mercola is a high profile quack who has been peddling bullshit to ignorant and desperate people for several decades now. His website, Mercola.com, gets about as much traffic as the National Institutes of Health, so that should make you feel really good about the state of science-based medicine.
Mercola has also appeared on Dr. Oz several times, where he has received a huge boost in popularity for his website and his batshit ideas, which in the past have included claims that vaccines are dangerous, that HIV doesn’t lead to AIDS, and that fluoridation is a government conspiracy to make you dumber. One thing is for sure from looking at Mercola’s website and fanbase, and that’s that forgoing fluoride doesn’t seem to make you any smarter.
The US Federal Trade Commission has had their eye on Mercola for many years now, and most recently had some success by filing a lawsuit against him that he was forced to settle for up to $5.3 million. This settlement involved Mercola’s latest business venture of selling tanning beds that he says prevent skin cancer.
That’s right: tanning beds, that prevent cancer. He also claims that they can benefit your prostate, remove wrinkles, and improve your immune system, due to the increased amount of Vitamin D your body synthesizes when exposed to UVB light.
The FTC found that not only does a tanning bed not do those things, but it in fact does the opposite, increasing cases of cancer and causing wrinkles as the UV light damages the skin.
Mercola settled the case by agreeing to offer refunds to all of the customers who purchased one of his tanning beds, which cost anywhere from $1,200 to $4,000 each. He’s also not allowed to sell any more of the beds. If everyone who bought a bed asked for a refund, he’d be in the hole for $5.3 million.
Unfortunately, we all know that that probably won’t happen. Mercola sells bullshit for a living, and a big part of that is convincing the people you’re selling to that it’s not bullshit. Many of his most fervent fans are people who think the FTC is just another arm of the government — the same government that is purposely poisoning them with fluoride. Why will they suddenly believe the FTC over Mercola, when doctors have been warning for decades about the dangers of tanning beds?
Dr. Oz once again deserves condemnation for his role in all this, too. He allowed Mercola to come on his show and pitch his cancer machines to an audience of nearly 4 million people. Someone must have tipped him off that he was aiding and abetting a criminal enterprise that was about to be slapped with an enormous lawsuit, because the show posted a follow-up article stating that while Mercola’s ideas are cutting-edge and intriguing, tanning beds are probably still dangerous.
So unfortunately, while I applaud the FTC for pursuing this first-order quack, the settlement doesn’t go nearly far enough and just like Kevin Trudeau, this is hardly a bump in the road for Mercola. I guarantee that he already has another 12 money-making schemes lined up to fleece his gullible flock while actively damaging their health.