LENEXA, Kan. -- What if we told you there's a product on the market that people claim can significantly improve health ailments -- simply by drinking it?
Now what if we told you it's a form of bleach?
A Lenexa mother is accused of giving a solution, known as MMS or Miracle Mineral Solution, to two of her autistic sons and is now coming under fire for it.
"He'll scream for no reason. He'll bite his arms unprovoked," said dad Brad Austin, describing a video where his son Jeremy can be seen screaming and biting himself.
The video shows then 25-year-old Jeremy Austin on a typical day. Jeremy, who is now 28, has severe autism.
Aggressive outbursts were part of normal life.
"When you have someone who tears up their arms and screams all the time and can't speak and they're trapped in their own body -- that's not normal, and that's not something they were born with," said his mother, Laurel Austin.
"That's tortuous, and he deserves relief from that."
Laurel said Jeremy and three of her other children are vaccine-injured.
All four of them have autism. Two are fully functioning, and Jeremy is the most severe.
"He used to speak. He had up to 25 words," Laurel said.
At 18 months, she noticed concerning changes in Jeremy.
His mom saw facial ticks, grand mal seizures and self-inflicting biting. By 3 years old, Jeremy stopped speaking.
Laurel said she tried everything from specialized diets to medication -- with little to no success. Then she learned about MMS.
'It's corrosive and toxic'
"This thing claims to cure everything," Brad said. "It's such a ludicrous idea."
When FOX4 asked Brad if he believed his children with Laurel were vaccine-injured, he said, "no."
When asked if he thinks something in particular caused the children's autism, he said, "genetics."
Brad, who declined "standby guardianship" rights in 2008, said his ex-wife is poisoning their children.
"She's giving Joshua and Jeremy bleach to try to cure their autism," Brad said. "It is akin to child abuse in my opinion."
MMS is touted as bleach pretty much anywhere you look on the internet -- but what is it really?
We asked Dr. David Van Horn, a chemist, to find out.
The short answer: It's sodium chlorite mixed with hydrochloric acid. Van Horn said it's not household bleach, but it's in the family of bleach.
"It's not recommended at all to drink either of these alone or combined," Van Horn said.
He said the solution is dangerous to drink, but just how dangerous depends on how dilute it is.
The MMS protocol Laurel uses follows the directive of Karri Rivera, author of "Healing the Symptoms Known as Autism." The protocol includes mixing equal parts from each bottle, starting with one drop and working up to 30 drops over time.
The solution is then mixed into 8 ounces of water to dilute and is consumed 1 ounce at a time over the course of a day.
Van Horn said the diluted final product makes a fairly benign solution -- but he still doesn't recommend drinking it.
"It's corrosive and toxic," Van Horn said.
That's according to the safety data sheet provided by the maker of sodium chlorite. Chemical producers are mandated by law to produce such materials for all products.
"I fear for their health, their safety," Brad said. "It's not medically approved treatment. The FDA has warned against it."
Brad is referring to a U.S. Food and Drug Administration news release, citing "potentially life-threatening side effects of Miracle Mineral Solution."
But some doctors seem to be on the fence as to how dangerous MMS really is.
Even the experts disagree
"I took the information to my expert, which was our regular family practice doctor. It wasn't even an alternative medicine doctor," Laurel said. "She signed off on it."
She also pointed FOX4 to a 1982 study that says there was no "obvious undesirable clinical" consequences that resulted from the daily ingestion of chlorine dioxide. Of course, the study notes it can't rule out clinical consequences beyond its 12-week period.
Laurel said her former doctor signed off on the use of MMS as a former of chelation therapy, which is a medical procedure that removes heavy metals from the body.
FOX4 also spoke with other medical doctors across the state and country. The majority warn against this practice, but a handful agree with the protocol.
"We could not have started the protocol without a doctor's signature because day service had to administer," Laurel said.
One quick search on the internet shows how easy it is to find and purchase MMS.
"That's snake oil. That's snake oil," Brad said.
A lot of people would agree with Brad, but quite a few others say the results speak for themselves.
Look at him now
Some would call Laurel crazy, but instead, she said she would call herself "researched."
"We've had amazing health improvements, amazing behavior improvements," Laurel said.
Laurel started two of her boys on the MMS protocol in June 2018 and said she stopped June 2019.
"This has changed everything," she said.
She told FOX4 that Jeremy's last seizure was nearly a year ago. Prior to starting the protocol, she said he had up to five a month.
Now she said his aggression is gone, too.
"My children have had improved health," she said. "If I was poisoning them with bleach, wouldn't their health be getting worse instead of better?"
She pointed to a video recorded just a few years ago and said, look at him now.
"He's a lot calmer," Laurel said. "He's also started saying, 'Mom,' which I haven't heard since he was three. My heart just almost jumped our of my chest because it's what I've been praying for since he was little."
When asked what her hope is for her boys, Laurel said: "For them to just heal as much as they possibly can and live as independently as they can. I have never gone into this thinking I'm going to get 100% recovery."
Not everyone believes in miracles, however.
Brad filed reports with Kansas Adult Protective Services and the Lenexa Police Department.
It resulted in a mandated trip to the emergency room for blood work on their son, Joshua. The lab results came back clean, and the case was dropped.