CNN  — 

The US and Brazil aren’t the only countries where political leaders have appeared to contradict the advice of medical experts.

In Bolivia, several lawmakers are fighting to recognize a toxic cleaning agent as a Covid-19 therapy, even as health officials warn it could be deadly.

In the city of Cochabamba, Dionisio Flores displayed two small plastic dropper bottles in his right palm and a larger bottle in his other hand, all of which he said contained chlorine dioxide – a bleach-like substance health officials say is “highly toxic” and could be lethal – but which Flores bought to prevent or treat coronavirus.

He is one of dozens of residents of the Andean city to line up in front of stores to buy the disinfectant for coronavirus treatment, defying the advice of health authorities.

“Authorities say you have to consult with your doctor,” Flores told Reuters. “What doctor, we never had a doctor! Poor people, we don’t have doctors.”

Chlorine dioxide is mostly used to disinfect drinking water supplies and has never been legitimately used or sold for use in or on the human body.

The Bolivian Health Ministry says it is not an effective coronavirus treatment, and has issued strong warnings against experimenting with it. On July 20, the ministry stated on social media that chlorine dioxide’s dangerous effects can include acute liver failure, life-threatening low blood pressure caused by dehydration, severe vomiting and respiratory failure.

A woman buys chlorine dioxide at a pharmacy in Cochabamba on July 17, 2020.

Its warning has been echoed by health authorities around the world. The US Food and Drug Administration has warned against using chlorine dioxide for coronavirus and says they “pose significant risks to patient health.” And the Pan American Health Organization says it does not recommend related products “in patients with suspected or diagnosis of Covid-19, or in any other case because there is no evidence on its efficacy and ingestion or inhalation of these products could cause serious adverse effects.”

Yet those promoting its use include Cochabamba’s Mayor José María Leyes, who has tested positive for the virus, and lawmakers from the main opposition party.