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 Article of Interest - Chelation Therapy and Autism, Lead Poisoning

Chelation Therapy Part 1: A New Hope for Autistics More of this Feature

Chelation Therapy Part 2: The Opposing View More of this Feature

from About.com, February 2003

Chelation Therapy is but one of the therapies available for children with Autism or who have been exposed to lead poisoning.  Chelation Therapy, as it relates to Autism, is not seen as a "cure" for Autism but as a way to remove the mercury that has been placed into the body by vaccines.  By publishing this article, Bridges4Kids does not imply agreement with any particular therapy, treatment or theory.
For more articles on disabilities and special ed visit www.bridges4kids.org


Chelation Therapy Part 1: A New Hope for Autistics More of this Feature


Chelation therapy was first developed by the United States Navy as a way of removing toxic metals from the bodies of military personnel exposed to high concentrations of lead during the 1940's. Since that time, it has been used in the treatment of people exposed to lead paint particles and other environmental exposures, and is a recommended treatment by the American Academy of Family Practice and the American Academy of Pediatrics for this purpose. Now, however its use is being expanded to the treatment of other medical conditions such as Autism.

The chemical process that takes place in chelation is complicated, but put in simple terms, the heavy metals, such as mercury, bind to the chelating agent and then are eliminated from the body. In theory, once they are removed, their toxic effects are eliminated and the individual begins to show improvement in the areas which were exposed to these metals. There are several products which are in use as chelators and are prescribed for use by some physicians.

One of the best and safest chelators is DMSA. While not approved by the FDA for use in Autism, it is approved for removal of lead from children who have been diagnosed with lead poisoning. Due to the nature of DMSA, however, it does not simply bind to lead, but to any heavy metal, and therefore will bind to mercury, such as has accumulated due to vaccinations containing thimerosal. It has been tested in children and found to be safe and effective when properly used.

Another common chelator is DMPS. This substance,however, has never been tested in children and has not been found to be safe and effective. It also is very expensive and can only be purchased through a compounding pharmacist. For these reasons, it is usually not covered by health insurance policies. Because of these factors, it is not recommended for use with children and is a poor alternative to DMSA according to many specialists.

Another product in use is lipoic acid. This is an excellent chelator, since it is lipid soluble, and is therefore able to cross cell membranes better than the water soluble product DMSA. In theory, this makes it more effective, since most of the mercury is stored within the cells and is harder to reach and create bonds with.

There are two steps to chelation therapy that are essential if it is to work. First, the loosely-bound body mercury must be eliminated. This can be done with DMSA. It is given in a one week on, one off pattern with dosages being administered every four hours. Once the urine mercury levels have stabilized, the next step is chelating the mercury that is tightly bound within the cells. This is done using lipoic acid.

It is important to provide nutritional support designed to counteract mercury's known effects and to use monitoring tests to check on blood counts, kidney and liver function, and mineral levels, and to gauge how much mercury is being eliminated from the body. These tests must be done under supervision of a physician, and as in any medical treatment should be closely supervised and the recommendations of the physician should be followed by the patient.

For more information on physicians who practice Chelation Therapy, contact the American College for Advancement in Medicine (ACAM). Their database includes over 600 physicians and clinics that are certified in this treatment method. Part 2 of this article will discuss the viewpoint of the traditional medical community toward this method of treatment.

Chelation Therapy Part 2: The Opposing View More of this Feature
Chelation Therapy, as it relates to Autism, is not seen as a "cure" for Autism but as a way to remove the mercury that has been placed into the body by vaccines.
While much publicity has been given to chelation therapy within the Autism community, the overwhelming opinion of the traditional medical community is that it is an unproven therapy that should be avoided. According to Saul Green, PhD, the American College for Advancement in Medicine (ACAM), the primary proponents of chelation, and its Board Certification program are not recognized by the scientific community.

Green also points out that the typical treatment program costs between $75 and $125 per treatment, takes between 20 and 100 treatments to show results, and is not covered by insurance. Other physicians point out that some chelation therapists attempt to secure insurance coverage by misrepresenting the patient's treatment to the insurance companies, therefore practicing insurance fraud rather than medicine.

It is interesting that none of the material discussed above is related to chelation therapy in the treatment of Autism or other developmental disorders. It relates to claims that chelation is an effective treatment for heart disease. The implication, however is that if it is a fraudulent treatment for heart disease, then all treatments using this procedure are suspect and should be avoided.

It is obvious that more research needs to be done into this treatment. In November 2000, Cure Autism Now (CAN), a leading Autism research organization called for research proposals to finally investigate the effectiveness of chelation therapy in Autism treatment. Since there has been no research studies done to validate the claims of those who tout chelation in the treatment of Autism, this treatment should be considered unproven and the safety and effectiveness of it are still undetermined.

This viewpoint is supported by the Autism Biomedical Information Network, which lists chelation as an unproven treatment. They point out that no reliable research studies have been made on many treatments being offered as alternatives to traditional Autism treatments, and that most of the information available on their effectiveness is anecdotal rather than based on valid scientific research techniques.

While it is not illegal for a physician to prescribe chelation therapy for the treatment of Autism, without valid research studies, any treatment that has not been properly researched should be undertaken with a degree of skepticism. Until chelation is approved for use with Autistics and until valid research is conducted, the traditional medical community recommends that it be avoided.
 

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