Chelation: Miracle Autism Treatment or ‘Voodoo Medicine’?

July 10, 2008 09:02 AM
by Cara McDonough
Many parents say chelation, a process that removes heavy metals from the body, cures their autistic children. Critics claim a study of the controversial method would be unethical.

30-Second Summary

Some government researchers are pushing for a federal study of chelation in autism, pressured by parents who believe in the method, which is traditionally used to treat lead poisoning.

Using chelation to treat autism is tied to the idea that mercury in vaccines causes autism, a theory unproven by scientific research.

Christina Blakey of Chicago, for instance, says chelation and other alternative therapies helped her eight-year-old autistic son Charlie get over his daily tantrums.

“So many moms have said, `It’s saved my kids,’“ said Dr. Thomas Insel, who directs the National Institute of Mental Health and supports a federal study.

Other scientists disagree. Dr. Paul Offit of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and author of an upcoming book on autism, said federal research agencies must “bring reason to science” without “catering to a public misperception.” Offit and others say a study would be unethical.

Chelation drugs, which can be taken in pill form, include DMSA (dimercaptosuccinic acid) and EDTA (ethylene diamine tetra-acetic acid). The drugs can now be found in heath food stores, vitamin aisles and Web sites, according to the Los Angles Times.

The drugs are sometimes necessary to treat extreme lead poisoning cases, but its “shocking and worrisome” that such products are sold over the counter, says Dr. Michael Shannon, chief of emergency medicine at Children’s Hospital in Boston.

Without a doctor’s supervision, chelation can wash out important metals, such as iron, calcium and manganese along with mercury and lead.

At least one child’s death has been linked to chelation therapy.

Headline Link: ‘Fringe autism treatment could get federal study’

Opinion & Analysis: Chelation critics and supporters

Background: Boy dies following chelation treatment

Related Topics: Many aspects of autism still a mystery

Reference: Chelation, vaccines and autism


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