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Chelation Therapy

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Chelation therapy is the administration of chelating agents such as EDTA or DMSA to remove heavy metals from the body.  It is used as a treatment for acute mercury, iron (including in cases of thalassemia), arsenic, lead, uranium, plutonium and other forms of toxic metal poisoning. The chelating agent may be administered intravenously, intramuscularly, or orally, depending on the agent and the type of poisoning.

Some alternative practitioners use chelation to treat hardening of the arteries. The original theory behind calcium chelation therapy was that EDTA forms a complex with the calcium in the walls of arteries. Drawbacks with this theory include EDTA's inability to penetrate the cell walls in the arteries and therefore inability to access the calcium, EDTA binding preferentially to other metals, and calcium posing minimal arterial danger in comparison to cholesterol and other deposits. A number of dangers have been associated with the therapy including hypocalcaemia, decreased blood coagulation ability (perhaps hypocalcaemia related), and the risk of leaching of necessary trace metals.

Based on the theory that heavy metal poisoning may trigger the symptoms of autism, particularly in small subsets of individuals who cannot excrete toxins effectively, some parents have turned to alternative medicine practitioners who provide chelation therapy to treat their child's autism.

There is a low occurrence of side effects when EDTA chelation is used at the dose and infusion rates approved by the FDA.  Rare side effects include fever, headache, nausea, stomach upset, vomiting, a drop in blood pressure and hypocalcemia. Kidney toxicity is a safety concern, but a rare occurrence. When EDTA is not administered correctly, more serious side effects can occur.

Chelation therapy can be hazardous. In August 2005, botched chelation therapy killed a 5-year-old autistic boy, a nonautistic child died in February 2005 and a nonautistic adult died in August 2003. These three deaths were due to cardiac arrest caused by hypocalcemia during chelation therapy.


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