CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The spa treatment known as Aqua Detox started in England, but the American headquarters are based here in Mooresville. So we sat down with the company's owner about some of their claims. He answered our questions only until we got to the tough ones.
"Don't touch the camera sir," said Photojournalist John Gray.
"I'm touching it," said Aqua Detox owner Peter Bailey.
Bailey charged at our photojournalist, after we asked about the company's claims. Their brochure says you're supposed to be de-toxified, re-balanced re-energized. All you have to do is put your feet in the water.
"I almost felt like I was floating," described one spa owner.
According to the company's brochure, Aqua Detox "produces a charge which stimulates the cells within the body" ... releasing toxins through the pores on the feet.
"You're gonna feel so much better," added a spa owner.
Before Bailey threw us out and followed us in the parking lot, he talked to us in a sit-down interview.
"It refreshes and rebalances those cells so the body will perform better," explained Bailey.
We used hidden cameras at four Charlotte area businesses to checkout the treatment.
Several spas said, "It helps people with arthritis and fibromyalgia." "You're gonna see where it just pulls the toxins and they end up coming in the water."
Some who perform the service say that's why the water changes color during the 30 minute treatment.
NewsChannel 36 employees left their feet in for the full treatment.
We were told many things like, "The black flecks are heavy metal." "It's orange, so the toxins are from your joints." "That is full of yeast." "You were reddish green in the beginning so it was hitting your kidney toxins."
Reporter Michelle Boudin asked Bailey, "So you're saying things come out in the water. What types of things come out in the water?
"Parasites, metals, you can see the metals coming out in little black flakes," explained Bailey.
We took samples of the water at all four spas we visited and sent them off to a certified forensic lab in Texas.
"I find it interesting, four different feet and all the solutions are essentially the same color," said Dr. Kelly Wouters.
He says there's a good reason. "All the samples were orange and we believe the orange color is the formation of rust," he added.
That's right, he says it's rust. The lab tested for a host of metals, including iron, chromium, and mercury.
The only metal that really registered, said Wouters, was "a lot of iron. It's basically forming rust."
We also had the water tested for yeast. The lab only found a speck. "We did find a very low level of yeast, but that's not surprising. It's everywhere in the environment."
We shared our results with the people who performed the treatment on us. Some say they still believe. One though told us after she heard what we found out, she's no longer doing it.
We had a Queens University chemistry professor try to get similar results with no feet. Dr. Greg Pillar said, "You can generate rust using electrical chemical process similar to the way the Aqua Detox treatment works."
Boudin asked, "You were able to get the exact same thing minus the feet?"
"Exactly," he said.
We even found a video on YouTube, where a customer used a carrot in his experiment. He's one of many Aqua Detox critics.
"It didn't seem quite on the up and up," said EarthFare Marketing Director Troy DeGroff. He added, "It didn't sit right with me. It felt pseudo science."
So he no longer lets his company sell the Aqua Detox treatment. The product was once demonstrated and the service sold at EarthFare, not anymore.
"They've now disassociated because they no longer believe in the product. What do you say to that?" Boudin asked Bailey.
"OK! Stop the camera. Stop the camera. I'm not prepared to continue," Bailey said.
Cost for the treatment ranged between $30 and $65. To get the full benefits, Bailey told us you need six treatments. The company also told us about thousands of people benefiting from Aqua Detox treatments, even providing us with a list of people to contact for interviews, but each time we set an interview up, they cancelled on us.